Summer of 1984, I was sixteen years old and spending my summer with my family on the island of Crete. But I was young and horny and the Sirens were howling with ecstasy, calling me to a different island.
I had heard the curious whispers… friends, relatives even strangers. This was before Google and Facebook.
“You know Mykonos is where all of ‘those kinds of people’ go, don’t you?”
“God only knows what goes on on that island…”
I was dying to find out what exactly all the fuss was and why, only a year earlier in 1985— my family prohibited me from visiting when I shared my proposed excursion plans with them.
I was only fifteen then but now, a year later at sixteen and armed with the permission of my mom… I was good to go.
I still didn’t want family drama, though so I told them how excited I was to visit Santorini, with its archaeological sites (they knew I had an interest in history so they bit).
Santorini it was… boat tickets and all, and purchased as a gift by my beloved aunt who was so happy that last year’s Mykonos obsession had passed.
I remember taking the bus from Hania to Iraklion to catch my ferryboat to Santorini. I knew I could also get to Mykonos but didn’t have a clue how or when.
It was pure luck when I went to the ferry kiosk at the port and said I had a ticket to Santorini but wanted to get to Mykonos.
“Give me 200 drachmas difference and stay on the boat. After Santorini you’ll stop at Syros, Tinos then Mykonos.”
The same boat. Just a few stops after Santorini. How lucky was I? And to think… I’d even get to see Santorini and snap some photos from the port to show my family. Yep. I visited Santorini all right.
The arrival on Mykonos was a hypnotic frenzy of locals pushing and shoving for attention of the horde getting off the ferry boat. I was pushed and shoved… “room for rent,” one sign said.
“Rooms in town”
“Super Paradise Camping”
I didn’t have a clue where I was going or what direction to go in when a woman who resembled everyone’s Greek aunt grabbed me and pulled me towards her Datsun pick up truck.
“Rooms. cheap,” she told me.
“In town,” I asked her?
“Close to town,” she said, reiterating the word “cheap” several times.
So I hopped onto the back of her truck (her Golden Labrador Brutal (yes, she named him Brutal) was occupying the passenger seat and she never offered it to me) and we turned left out of the old port and began the twisty roads… farther and farther away from Chora, the island’s main town.
Soon we were heading up a steep hill. I know now after decades of visiting the island that her “cheap” rooms for rent were in Agios Stefanos, a village several kilometers away from town.
She showed me to my room— which was actually a single concrete square block with a twin bed, a toilet and a sink— all in one room— just off the chicken-filled courtyard opposite her main house.
She asked for my passport and a night’s deposit and I dodged a bunch of chickens en route to my room for the next week.
I put my head on the pillow and wondered about what awaited me… It was exhilarating and exciting until I realized I was far from town, far from the busses to the beaches, far from the bars and clubs— far from why I came to this island in the first place.
Being the kind and mannered young Greek boy that my mamma raised, I couldn’t dare offend this fine woman so I waited for mesimeri— the middle of the afternoon when most islanders take their siestas.
She was snoring away. The coast was clear. Like a thief, I tip-toed through the chickens in the courtyard and literally jumped through an open window into her single room house. She was snoring away on the couch and only one thing stood between me and my passport on a small table in the room.
He must have become familiar with me because he didn’t bark when he saw me creeping through the window. In fact, he barely opened his eyes, laying motionless on the floor next to his master. Good dog.
Good boy. Stay, I thought.
Then, like clockwork, as I grabbed my passport and made a mad dash out the same window, Brutal erupted in barking.
I grabbed my duffel bag and bolted off the property and down the hill toward Agios Stefanos beach. I never ran so fast in my life. The woman screamed obscenities at me but fortunately she never let Brutal out the gated house… otherwise I’d be dog food by now.
I ran and ran for what felt like at the time, a double marathon. Eventually I hung a left down the hill for the main road towards town and I stopped. Dripping from sweat in the sweltering midday heat.
I had no clue where I was headed— or where I’d go. All I knew was that it was in the direction AWAY from Agios Stefanos and toward town.
All of the sudden, like a knight in shining armor— you can’t make this up— it’s part of the magic of this island— a Greek man on a moped stops next to me.
Where are you going, he asked in a sexy accent that made my post-adolescent blood move quicker.
“That way,” I said.
And like that, I jumped on the back of his moped, duffel precariously balancing off my shoulder and he drove towards a majestic, white-washed town that would be my home for the next month.
We parked the moped and headed into the maze of a town, feeling as if I’d never find my way out if I had to make a run for it.
As we made our way down a slight hill, there they were. Like Calypso and her sisters sitting high up on a hill calling unsuspecting sailors into their embrace, I saw the famous windmills for the first time.
I would be forever ensnared in their embrace.
I was only supposed to stay five days and I knew I’d have a lot of explaining to the aunts back in Crete… but I didn’t care.
The next month would be one of the most magical of my young life, while simultaneously falling in love with an island I’ve been visiting for almost four decades.