Front St. Arts
Man of Earth
Preface & Reader Response
We stopped to swim late in the afternoon just north of Mount Olympus.
This feature is chapter four of a series that may have dozens of chapters. There are introductory essays for the series; they are marked with lowercase Roman numerals (e.g., i and ii). All parts of the series are accessible from the menu that appears under the title of each segment.
Phases of Astonishment
TO THE ENDS OF THE CIVILITY
A Humbling Sojourn East
Chapters: i | ii | iii | I | II | III | IV
by Jerry Murley
In late August 1972, I returned from an epic journey culminating in a brief incursion into Asia through the gut of Byzantium. It began on the third of August. Don and I lugged our baggage to the entrance way of the autostrada to Bologna and waited for several hours for a ride. In the meantime, Don's wide-brimmed white straw hat blew into a drainage ditch. We finally got a lift with two English boys to Treviso. It was nearly night when we arrived, and we had no hope of getting another ride that day. We bumped into a tall, rebellious-looking Italian teenager who told us we could sleep at his house. It seemed like we walked forever through narrow alleys and down dark suburban streets with dogs barking at us; we kept getting tireder and hungrier. Finally at about 10 p.m. we arrived at his house; it was disheveled and cold inside. He gave us a glass of grappa and then we went upstairs to sleep on the floor of his room, which was plastered with the posters of rock stars. We were awaken by shuffling and loud talk. Then all became quite clear: he and his father lived alone; he had run away and just returned, bring us along as a buffer to delay a physical conflict. We slept a weary sleep and dreamed with the uneasiness of those events and the potential for disturbance lodged in our minds.
Next day we called a friend, a girl named Luccia, an architecture student in Florence who we knew lived in the area. She and a friend picked us up and drove us midway to Udine. We waited and waited on the highway but no one would pick us up, so we walked into the nearest town and took a train the rest of the way. We walked across Udine to the road leading up into the Alps. Near dark, a young Dane picked us up; he had been visiting his girlfriend in Yugoslavia. We drove all night through the Alps listening to Bob Dylan albums on tape and occasionally stopping in the crisp clarity of the mountain air to view a star-studded sky. We parted ways early in the morning on the autostrada outside Salzburg. Don and I staggered over into the thickets and threw two ground cloths down on the wet grass to sleep until daybreak. At sun up we awoke soaked and covered with snails. We then got a lift into Vienna.
That afternoon we discovered, it being Saturday, we would have to remain there four days if we were to obtain a visa to enter Hungary, where we had planned to visit Budapest. That, we soon discovered, was an intolerable alternative. We found the Viennese cold and rude, and the place itself was pretty dull in a sterile way. Although the women were kind, and it was pleasant watching the elderly people and children in the parks, the tasteless spectacle of Austrian sentimentality, especially as witnessed at the palace and gardens of Schonbrunn, with its Romantic, artificial grandeur, fake ruins and spotless families, made that proposition thoroughly unappealing.
At 10:30 p.m., after beer and wieners in the train station bar, we were entertained with some rawer Germanic manners when one of the unconscious drunks sleeping on a table aroused himself enough to stand and piss on the floor in the middle of the well-lit cafeteria. As if that wasn't enough, another boozed-up brute, chivalrously defended decency by throwing his fist into the flabby face of the blind-drunk pisser, knocking his limp frame folding to the floor to lie face down in his own urine. To be fair to the rest of the Continent, I had never seen anything so barbaric in all of Europe. We soon, not soon enough, boarded the Oriental Express for Belgrade.
Ousted from our train compartment at 4 a.m., we found ourselves attempting to sleep in the aisle. Don was lying on the floor, and I was sitting backwards on a stool attached to the car wall between the windows with my forehead leaning against the hard, vibrating surface of the train. The next day we observed a continuous line of uninhabited hills, stringy clusters of two-story, red-tile-roofed, stucco houses and large fields of corn until we arrived at Zagreb. There, amongst an unusually large number of passengers, we had to wait, without seats, for three hours.
Spacious extents of often uncultivated fertile plains, peppered with little communes garnished by small plots of corn nearby; housing complexes in the suburbs with large lots between them; and simply constructed, neat two-story houses – all occupied our view for the remainder of our twenty-hour journey into the heart of Yugoslavia. We found a pension for our first night in Belgrade and walked into the hub of the city. The city center was very much alive with parks packed with pairs of lovers and congenial people in conversation. The place was relaxed with far less fear and threat of crime and far more movement than I had witnessed before in a city its size. We met an engineering student whose father was a resistance fighter in World War II; both of his grandfathers were killed by the invaders during the war. Little wonder that there was lingering hatred of Italians, Germans and Hungarians in Yugoslavia. He offered to show us Belgrade and introduced us to his friends, one of whom, a girl, gave us a place to stay and meals in her parents' apartment; she labored several hours explaining the government of their country. They tried in vain to teach us a bit of Serbo-Croatian. After three days full of discussion in the apartments of our new acquaintances and public places of Belgrade, we set off for Skopje by bus with a very favorable impression of Yugoslavian people and their inventive governmental system. Yet a very poor, last-minute impression of their public hygiene tainted the image that we finally took away with us: as we ate in a foot-worn, littered park near the terminal, we were surrounded by dozens of large rats scampering through the bushes about us. The next morning, in Skopje, on our way to continue hitchhiking to Greece, we walked from the expensively modern concrete embankments and park facilities near the terminal through the mosque-festooned city amid the rustle of crowds of industrial workers shuffling dutifully to their factories.
We obtained a lift from a German professor of physics, who was going to the Greek islands on holiday. We rode with him past the West Texas-like terrain of Southern Yugoslavia and some of the most extensive, beautifully green vineyards I had ever seen as we descended into Thessalonica. There, sweating in the oppressive heat, the professor failed to find a ferry to the islands, so he agreed to take us to Athens. Thessalonica was crowded with hotels, shops, restaurants and multi-colored apartments like Florida hotels; it was a relief when we got out into the open spaces once again.
Dirt, sand and heat blended with scattered flat-roof, white concrete houses, the deep-seated windows of which looked as if they had been cut out with a cookie cutter; barren mountains with an occasional glimpse of the pure blue, thirst-teasing freshness of the sea – all were to be the elemental components of our scenery until our last day in Greece. We stopped to swim late in the afternoon just north of Mount Olympus. After the swim, as we passed, Mount Olympus seemed in an orangish, firey glow – divine over-potency or festivities or heavenly battle. Then we went through another town, much like a Mexican town with dirt roads and sand; there was a lot of night movement: the shops were all open, women were sitting in the streets, children were playing and riding bicycles, and men were watching TV, talking or playing table games in storefronts and on sidewalks. We went to a couple of bars to buy wine and bread, which we ate at dark in a field beside the road. Next we stopped at a station adjacent to two bars, both of which had photographs of a mustached young version of J. Edgar Hoover – Papa-dopple-us. Large groups of men gathered in front of these stations to watch TV – "I Love Lucy" and "Bonanza" and the like.
This stop was followed by a tiring search for a place to sleep by the sea. Eventually we plopped down in a field near the ruins of an old stone house. During the night we were awakened, first by a faint sporadic groan in the weeds, then by the awfully scary intrusion of a half-dead rooster, which shrieking, managed to pull his way between our heads as we had just fallen into dream. It moved on and died, I guess, but the event made us leery of the area and robbed us of a deeper slumber.
Athens was like the 1957 Havana of our imagination. We rented a hotel room and, for a reduced rate, shared a double bed. But in the heat that we encountered in Athens, one cannot fathom how people ever really sleep there. Anyway, I was too busy shitting and was most glad just to have a roll of paper and a seat for my personal toiletries. The Acropolis did not stun me then – though it does now, in memory. I didn't say "Wow." It did not have to do that to me; it really shouldn't have. I simply peeled a juicy peach and dripped it all over my chin and shirt as I slowly consumed it – I'm sure one of the few other tourists on the hill that morning might have thought I was drooling. I walked around slowly without a thought in my head, but I heartily imbibed images nonetheless. It was truly a dignified place, though, and my steady, self-assured pose fully complemented the surroundings.
We walked through the back streets near the Acropolis, observing the quaint electric signs flashing "Pop Dancing," "Folk Dancing," "Rock," "Country," etc., while listening to Jethro Tull and Rod Stewart seeping from opened doorways and windows. Not knowing more than four words of Greek – it really didn't matter to commercial people what one spoke – we stopped at a cafe where one simply pointed out what one wanted from the hot plates behind the counter. We had fish, okra simmered in oil, a special tomato sauce, and retsina. Still unfulfilled, we again climbed to the Acropolis and afterward went for a beer. Back at the hotel, I made arrangements for my mother to call me. I then put on my bathing suit, opened all the windows, and removed linens from the bed in anticipation of another hot, restless night.
We left Athens the next day at 1:30 p.m., after visiting the Acropolis again and dumping our luggage on a shelf in the basement of our hotel. Our boat left at 2 p.m. from Piraeus, but at 1:50 p.m. we were still on the bus without a ticket or any more than vague notion of the direction to the dock. A diminutive Greek man ran with us to the correct ship; we paid 274 drachmas and climbed aboard to find our niche alongside our brethren sardines. There were wailing children, excessive luggage, whining complaints, and inadequate seating – all in all the nose-to-underarm comfort level of a battleship packed with refugees. Off we went – and soon thereafter off went the clothing, except for my bathing suit, which had become a necessary component of my two-week uniform for the islands. For this travel-light side trip, I carried one pair of shorts, sandals, one T-shirt, one bathing suit, one toothbrush, one sleeping bag, one towel, one camera and one ground cloth. On the ship, I read – what else – Greek mythology, as day passed into night and night into morning sailing eastward on the blue Aegean.
By the port of Rhodes, our intended destination, a full three-fourths of the passengers had disembarked and all the sleeping bags had been rolled up, after weathering the sea spray of the previous night, left to dry in the warm morning air. We saw hundreds of multi-colored umbrellas and insignificant dots of vacationers in colonies on the beaches to the foot of their respective hotels. When we landed, we immediately boarded a bus for a more southerly and sparsely populated section of the island, the ancient Dorian city of Lindos.
Lindos was an impressive city, grand in its utter simplicity: all the buildings were white with flat roofs; the wear-polished stone alleys were immaculate and used only for passage by donkeys and pedestrians; and against the spotless, ubiquitous whitewash every plant and flower, and the sky itself, stood out in splendid color. The prices for necessary commodities were cheap for us but expensive for Greece. The people spoke Italian, since Rhodes had been occupied and restored by the Italians, but they spoke it reluctantly and only to do business. They rest of the time, they were content to leave visitors alone and implicitly requested the same. We camped in an almost enclosed cove beneath the remnants of a Temple of Athena towering high above us. We were isolated but for two Italian campers and an English-Swedish couple; however, every day a few people came to the spot to swim. One night, a Frenchman who came cooked spaghetti on the beach for all of us. All in all it was a most relaxing and pleasant location to spend an entire week of one's life. We met some interesting people and the view was unsurpassed in all my travels, but the heat was treacherous. In due course, perfect solitude and beauty became monotony. Thus it was that we decided to venture farther afield and set off with the Italians on Thursday morning bound for Turkey.
* * *
The spur-of-the-moment journey to Turkey that Don and I made in the company of two inexperienced Italians was blemished from the outset by the cumulative misfortunes that befall ill-informed travelers. Add to this an insufficiency of funds, minor miscalculations, and an adherence to questionable associations, assumptions, and habits – all while traversing foreign parts – and one soon discovers discomfort if not real danger. At the start, we were delayed in Rhodes for a night, having to entertain ourselves and find a free place to sleep in a city which is accustomed to big-spending tourists. We got a free bath on the beach. I took a tour around the hotel side of the city, visiting a Temple of Apollo overlooking the sea. We had our usual shop-bought supper of wine, cheese, bread, and olives, dining as we reclined on the beach watching the sun set on Turkey. Then we tried to find an out-of-the-way place to sleep. We slept on the beach, but the city lights and noise made it difficult. At one point I felt uncomfortable and looked up to discover a drunk standing over me; with a concealed knife in hand, I yelled "Cosa fa?" He staggered off and I fell back into guarded slumber.
We did not dock in Marmaris until Friday afternoon. We soon boarded a bus for Istanbul – a bus which I sometimes thought might have no brakes, as the bus driver seldom applied them on the treacherous mountains of the southwest as we wound around unrailed gravel roads and past the camps of bedraggled Turks along the dusty, barren terrain. The land appeared fertile from a distance, but the crops were poor. I was told that the typical crops were corn, lemons, oranges, peaches and cotton, while in the east Turks raised more sheep, cattle and goats. It was not infrequent that we saw girls in the old native dress – bloomers, long airy dresses, and colorful scarves or shawls – tending the goats among the olive trees on otherwise denuded hillsides. The olive trees of the valleys of Greece were larger. I have heard from Sicilians that the best cultivators of olives in southern Europe were Sicilians, but I had never seen their olive trees to confirm the report.
Despite the non-stop thrill ride in more precarious conditions, the bus did make repeated stops along the route to pick up farmers standing alongside the road or in the village markets. These passengers carried their bartered goods for the day, bringing aboard commodities such as sacks of potatoes. Some of these rural-road rascals tried to root us from our seats with foolery about reserved seating and the like. But no one moved, except the tall, dull, pot-bellied, double-chinned, short-haired, scarcely moustached, young Italian Fascist in whose company we were. It was an omen of imbecilic acts to come from this gullible royalist. I met a young Turkish librarian on the trip who had lived in London for a time. He told me a bit about Turkey for the express reason of practicing his English. He said he liked the villages, but he would not comment about the government because he was a civil servant. He said he could not understand Americans but wished the government library service would send him to America because he would not come back. Then he got off the bus. The night was hot and the bus too scrunched up to abet sleep. The bus conductor had once insisted that we put our shirts on, claiming we would be arrested if we didn't. Later he tried to tell me something while I was drinking from a bottle of wine with my evening meal. He asked me for the bottle, and innocently, on assurance from Don, I gave it to him. He then casually leaned over, opened the window, and tossed it out. In stunned disbelief, I turned to Don in recrimination only to see him gulping down the rest of his bottle before it too went out the window.
In Turkey, at a bus station for instance, when I walked amongst the crowd, adults stared and impatiently served me or expressionlessly gave me assistance. They looked at me as if I were a freak, a fool, or an animal – a talking dog or mule. When we first arrived, back in Marmaris, a young boy of about 11 years old, who thought I was a football player or something, showed me where to buy bread and wine and how to say tesekkür: thanks. He also saved me some money, to the displeasure of a street beer vendor, by quickly interceding in a transaction and explaining the coinage. While walking at about 1:30 p.m., thirty minutes before our bus left for Istanbul, a procession of six shoddily dressed men in their 30s crossed our path carrying an opened box draped with a thin red linen. The shopkeepers and children stared and, after an inquiry, the boy informed us that in this small town of about 200 people a youth had been stabbed in a barroom brawl. It was a rough place that Turkey. For the first time in my travels, I felt as if I was in a truly foreign land of indecipherable customs.
Later that night, an American, who was about 32 years of age, flabby with a Nietzschean-like mustache, got on the bus sonorously strutting his achievements aboard. He was married to a Turkish woman and had been to Istanbul eight times and could speak Turkish: this of course impressed our skin-headed Italian medical student companion, who insisted on speaking English even when he could not understand it. Our hairless fellow traveler was quite impressed with the ability of Americans traveling on their own who could handle their own affairs in a foreign country; his father was working at the time as an engineer in America. The American told him about a campsite in Istanbul that was perfect for budget-strapped youthful travelers. He also condescended to promise to show us the way there on our arrival the next day. Don commented that there was something wrong in Turkey; to which the voluble American replied, "What don't you understand?" "They don't mingle; they don't play like Italians," said Don. "Of course not," he offered in defense, "these are weary travelers." They were, he seemed to imply, too tired for slight kindnesses after a battle for survival on the road.
We ended up camping at Tarabya, a beautiful little yachting harbor off the Bosphorus with restaurants lining the cove, night clubs that stayed open all night, a pleasant view of the motley-styled houses and cottages on the sea, and a for-pay motel-like campsite far from the city center. We swam, bathed, went to the local shops for food for supper, and talked deep into the night with our fellow campers. At about four o'clock the next morning, I awoke soaked from the dew to the chanting from minaret callers – amplified from speakers mounted in the spires of dozens of surrounding mosques – roosters, packs of dogs, and a damp chill. Don and I quickly packed our things, with the objective of seeing as much as we could afford or comprehend in just one day. This time we took a bus back to the city for two lire because the day before, on the advice of the all-knowing Turkish-American, we took a taxi. The taxi driver had agreed to take four of us and our baggage to the camping park for 25 lire; but when we arrived, the little scar-faced rotter demanded 35 lire. In the heat of re-negotiations, he left his cab and us to get a translator and eventually the police. Don told me that as the driver and I were exchanging curses with one another, I looked as if I was going to jump the driver. We had been told that everyone in Istanbul has a policeman's cap and that even the police charge passage though their territory; I paid him three additional lire and he gave me either a whining pout or a threatening glance as he reluctantly departed.
In Istanbul Don was barefoot: his bargain Italian shoes had disintegrated during our long travels. His foot was becoming sore, and we feared infection was near at hand. He hobbled behind as we made our way to the Beyazit and the Grand Bazaar determined to look for replacement shoes for him. We were almost there when Don looked around to find a young urchin, about six years old, with his arm rummaging through Don's pockets – vultures picking at the disabled. Having been found out, the pint-sized pickpocket ran. As he passed me, his gleeful displays of triumph showed how much he had successfully filched.
The Grand Bazaar was a vast underground rough-and-tumble market, a veritable oriental city with crowded aisles overflowing with junk and exotic goods. For about five dollars, I bought a pipe carved from soft white stone into the head of a Norseman. Don found a pair of brown corduroy shoes for three dollars. Nevertheless, much of the bargaining was done by the vendors trying to induce me to sell my gear, but none of them offered to pay as high as its actual value. We next went to the Blue Mosque, where we paid out the wazoo – as a contribution – and stepped inside to observe the enchanting mosaic designs of the dome and to watch the locals bending a knee for their religion toward Mecca. A Turk, I mistook for a worker dropping in for a prayer, offered to tell us about the Mosque. As he told it, it was started in 1607 and finished in ten or twelve years with about 5,000 men working at a time on it; he claimed that its dome had the largest diameter of any in the world. After this kindness, he held out his hand and asked for a fee of ten lire for his services. I scoffed and left, but dull-witted Alvin gave the guide six lire. From there, we walked to Hagia Sophia, a very pleasant edifice if the Turks hadn't put disks with Arabic script in front of the Christian mosaics. While there, I paid one lira just to urinate.
After being approached by someone selling hashish, Don and I finally left the Italian Fascists and went to the bus terminal. There we learned that the bus to Marmaris was full, but we were told that another would leave via Ismir in three hours that would cost 45 lire. We had probably the one redeeming experience of the venture when we went to explore the wall of Constantinople. Surprisingly it was well intact, especially the towers. On the Sea of Marmar side in many places the wall was being utilized for homes, built into the structure near where 60,000 Turks managed to overwhelm the enfeebled East Roman capital. There were bands of tent dwellers on the ridge outside the wall. As we road the bus out around the wall, we passed hundreds of fishermen and street vendors scampering and bartering amidst the trucks and buses awaiting the next ferry across the Bosphorus to Asia. We rode beside the wall for at least twelve miles. The old barrier against alien customs and laws, the plague of science, philosophy and capitalism, now stood in defense of those excluded ways. Passing it, I thought of Istanbul in terms of the Bosch painting "Garden of Earthly Delights."
We caught another bus in Ismir early the next morning after waiting three hours in the glum atmosphere of a dingy, crowded terminal without even the captivating string music and crying songs which usually emitted from jukeboxes in those places reserved for the nomadic hordes. The situation highlighted what a costly misadventure we had undertaken. After watching old women crying forlornly as they parted from their grandchildren, and as very sweet, neat little families assumed their roles for the old ones, smiling and waving, cuddling and cooing, I grew more weary with this turn-about leg of our oriental adventure.
At Marmaris we learned that we could not get a ship that afternoon, so we were obliged to camp on the harbor in a tent camp, paying two lire apiece to put out our ground covers and sleeping bags, and to use the dock and the toilet facilities. Don and I talked about Yugoslavia at the campsite that night before we returned to Rhodes. I was becoming increasingly inoculated against the night with a bottle of wine. We were talking to an Australian couple in the same predicament as ourselves, waiting in Marmaris for the next boat; she was listening intently and he was stomping around the beach in frustration. Before sleeping that night, a Turkish-New Yorker invaded the gathering tranquility of pre-sleep boredom – that moment when consciousness tires of expounding on things relevant and deserving, and merely entertaining, and with vague thought and glib effort attempts to nullify itself, defying care with the euthanasia of random fancy. Then entered a babbling antagonist of our drowsy dissipation: "Man, Turkey is dead. Istanbul is slow, but the dope is fine. — The bus drivers are crazy." "Well," said I, "we'll talk about it another day." He and his friend exited having disturbed our pleasant beginnings. We and the Australians aided one another and together managed to put one more day in Turkey to rest in peace.
Next day we swam, had our passports stamped by the police, exchanged our money at the best rate yet for dollars, and learned that we had been swindled into buying round-trip tickets on the Greek side of our excursion several days ago: the return ticket was half as much from the Turkish side, using the student rate, as they were on the Greek end. When we bought those tickets, the Greek feigned reluctance to even selling at their "discounted" price, holding up a sign which read: "If asked what you paid for your ticket, say dollars not lire."
At Rhodes again we discovered we must wait another day for a ferry to Athens, and I learned that Don was becoming quite ill from sleeping out without a proper ground cloth or cover. I went to obtain tickets for the next day's journey. Don went to purchase medicine. It was dusk with a nipping wind. After we bought bread, salami, cheese and wine from a little shop, we decided to remain in the shelter of the city rather than go to the beach. Eating in a small park encircled by hotels, which helped stave off the wind, we sat and observed the hotel windows where young and old couples were dressing for the evening and eating in restaurants and chatting in lobbies – those forbidden places for people with cash. But the high advantages were soon inverted when all of a sudden the electric power went out all over town; the fulcrum of security and comfort was jerked from under them unexpectedly. Eventually the candles began to dawn on cafe tables and we hurried away to find a shelter for the night. Through the parks and across the moat, around the wall and down the restored medieval passageways of the city of the Knights of St. John, we found no safe, secluded ground. We rested a moment and watched a father beating his son because his small daughter had stumbled. Then we went across the moat near to the harbor and inspected a site just over the wall behind the bushes; we found it suitable. We decided to wait until the traffic diminished before scaling the wall. After consuming the remainder of our wine, I cleaned up a place in the flower bed about 15 feet from the road. Finally after drinking some orange juice we bedded down. Fortune smiled on us again with additional cover to conceal our unlawful settlement: the lights went out again enabling us to get a start on sleep as the nightclubs across the street quieted. At four in the morning we were stirred as the day's garbage was picked up. At dawn we rolled up our gear and stepped into the sun, as police officers across the street watched with curiosity. We bought provisions and I wandered through the old Turkish part of the city in search of a temple of Dionysius. Afterwards I returned to the impatient shoving outside the customs office as all waited to board the Mimika II.
On the ferry, as before, it was at first hot so that I peeled down to my swimming suit, leaning for hours over the milky-blue, effervescent sea as swirling salt waves moved out from the boat toward land, studying the fingers of the rocky masses of islands pitted against the sea. At Kos the sea began to blush its orange-red as the sun fled behind the Aegean. As the air cooled, I was warm with a passion for a blond Swedish woman who'd been sitting behind us all day on the ship's deck. I made my approach and to my astonishment succeeded in striking up an evening's entertainment with an attractive companion. That night was spent beside her, sharing my sleeping bag as a blanket, atop a large storage bin open to the free night air fresh from the sea. All was mended and complete in this journey too-far east.
As we disembarked at Piraeus, Astrid and I made an engagement to meet that afternoon in Athens before I left for the ship to Italy. Don and I took bus 170 into Athens, then we went to the hotel for our luggage and a shower. We went to the American Express office but found no mail. We bought a ticket for the ship back to Italy, and I cashed a thirty-dollar traveler's check. We waited outside with yelling Greeks trying to clear storefronts and sidewalks of languishing, lingering bodies. I eventually met up with Astrid again; to my surprise, this exquisite Swede walked only with the able assistance of crutches. We had a beer and souvlaki, I bought a straw hat, and we walked in the rain. We said goodbyes with promises to write.
On the bus to the port, I met Francesca, a 27-year-old Italian teacher: slim, big-eyed, energetic, naive, in want of companionship. We talked about books, movies and Greece. Also I meet Diana, a southern bell from Florida who had studied Italian for one year; she had been in the Peace Corps in Libya for four years. At Patros, as I approach the ship, I saw the silhouettes of Lucca and Alvin, the two Italians we met at Lindos and with whom we traveled to Istanbul. Their pockets had been picked at the Grand Bazaar three hours after we left Istanbul. I bought food and retsina. It looked as if Don was going to miss the boat; he had spent the day looking for Byron's tomb. Amazingly, Don made it just in time. I slept the most peaceful night in my life on the deck of that ship in a lounge chair tucked deep into my sleeping bag, with the steady engine, wind and splash of water next to the boat helping rather than hindering my slumber. I awoke to the most beautiful sunup at sea. Sitting on the deck, I read from Time magazine about the Nixon campaign – far away and unimportant. And I wrote letters about my travels that were as brisk and cloudy as the weather. When it started raining, I went downstairs to Francesca's cabin. I met an older Parisian woman who had lived in Turkey for 30 years; she studied English literature at an American women's university in Istanbul. When we voiced a negative opinion of Turkey, she told us that we must have met the wrong kind of people in Istanbul. A porter of the ship pushed her around a bit insinuating about her and men in her cabin. "There are no divisions of classes on this ship. The porters are uneducated," she said afterward in response. After we docked in Brindisi, she exclaimed, "This never happens in Paris, you know – all the scuffling and chaos for unwilling taxis in a flooding rain with no waiting area – not in Paris. The police control everything and all is in order." She eventually got the only taxi available and kept it all to herself: "I got a ride because I am older and can spot a nice face," she said as she climbed into the taxi. We had carried the Parisian's luggage to her taxi, then she shut the door on us and drove away.
We walked across Brindisi to the train station in the rain. When everything is bad but the end is conceivably near, all is at its best. We were back to the charming chaos of Italy. At the station we met up with the two Romans again. We found out that Lucca and Alvin had no money at all, but we talked them into taking the train anyway. The train was packed, but we found a compartment with four other Italian young men who let us sit with them and were game for a little sport at the expense of the Italian government. We all conspired and situated ourselves in such a way that when the conductor came to check tickets, Don and I, sitting beside one another next to the door, eagerly thrust our tickets into the conductor's hands first, directing his attention and setting the pattern of his ticket-checking. Then the four Italians, sitting two on one side and two on the other next to the window, reached across to offer theirs. Meanwhile, Don and I passed our tickets to Lucca and Alvin by way of our sock and sandal respectively. When the conductor got to Lucca and Alvin, sitting side by side next to the door across from us, they gave the conductor our tickets and told him that someone had already punched them. And so sporting are the Italians that this maneuver worked several times on the night trip to Rome. In retrospect, it is entirely possible, even likely, that the conductor saw it all but allowed it because he respected the cooperative and clever attempt by the group of eight young men. We was spent the next day getting a tour of Rome guided by genuine Romans. We received more than the usual tour of sites, though, for we were conducted through the Sanctum Sanctorum of youthful waywardness and misadventure to see for ourselves the fascist slogans Alvin had written on the public walls of Rome, to listen to his Nazi records, and to read newspaper clippings about his various arrests.
One day of that was enough, the following morning we headed home to Florence to pick up our remaining luggage for the trip north to Paris for Don and to London for me. Though Don was flying home to start graduate school, I had more than three full months of travel alone in Europe ahead of me. Nevertheless, at that point I had not finally settled on when to return to Memphis, even though I had a prepaid return ticket for early December. The recurring dream of returning home had become an inconceivable nightmare, pushing me away rather than pulling me back to the less pleasant realities of America in the fall of 1972. Determined to stay abroad until I had not a cent remaining, I journeyed on – and never ever regretted doing so.
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