Saturday, September 25, 2010

"HELLO...MY NAME IS BOB, AND..."

Dear Friends,


Well, I only have five more days left on Crete. I am as nervous about leaving Crete as a man on death row who is about to be executed! I have become fidgety and restless. Tonight, I wandered around the little seaside village of Amoudara, looking for anyone I might know, just to tell them that I only have five days left here!!!


I think I have come to recognize my problem: I am a "Crete-O-Holic"!!! Yes, I know what you are thinking, "Bob, how did you let yourself slip into the depths of becoming a "Crete-O-Holic?" I don't know how it happened...it just slipped up on me...and before I knew it...Crete had me in its grasp!!! I think that I first became a "Crete-O-Holic" on my first and only assignment to Iraklion Air Station in late 1968. After my first 18 months were drawing to a close, I requested, and was granted a one-year extension. Then, as that extension was drawing to a close, I requested, and was granted a two-month extension. I left Crete in August of 1971 after having spent 2 years, 8 months here on Crete. You would think that I would have had my fill of Crete, but Crete had become my drug of choice! I was hooked and Crete had me in its grip!


I returned to Crete in 2008 for a three month "fix", but that only primed my hunger for more! So, I came back again in 2009, hoping that my three month visit would quell any future desires for Crete, but I just wasn't satisfied. So, I returned for a third visit...this time realizing that I was hopelessly a..."Crete-O-Holic"!!!


I really believe there should be a support group created just for us...Crete-O-Holics Anonymous, or CA for short. However, CA should not be confused with California or with Clarksville Academy!!! It would be a support group created by us...and for us. I can just picture the attendance of my first meeting there. After an opening prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag, the members of Crete-O-Holics Anonymous would be required to stand and introduce themselves. I would stand, nervously shifting my weight from one foot to the other, all the while wringing and twisting my sweaty hands together, and then in a somewhat shaky voice, I would say, "Hello. My name is Bob. And, I'm a "Crete-O-Holic." At that moment, there would be a chorus from all the others seated in a circle around me who would echo in unison, "Hello, Bob." And, then, I would know that I was among friends!


I don't think there is a known cure for those of us who are "Crete-O-Holics", and, quite frankly, I hope there never will be. The most that we can do is gather in places like CreteStock Yahoo Group or in small groups like reunions, or if any of us are really fortunate we can actually make a return visit to Crete. But in our little groups of Crete-O-Holics Anonymous, we can lean on each other and share our concerns and address questions that may have no answers. But, it is somewhat reassuring to know there are others out there who are as addicted to Crete as the rest of us! So, when your mind begins to wander...and your thoughts become consumed with nothing but Crete, just remember...you are not alone!!!


Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.


Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",


Bob Armistead

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

SCOTTY: THE QUEST FOR MATALA'S LAST HIPPIE

Dear Friends,

I am sure that many of you have heard or read about noble quests which have been pursued throughout history - some were spiritual, some were historical, and others were for treasure. There was the quest for the Holy Grail, the quest for Shangri La, the search for El Dorado, the search for the Ark of the Covenant, the search for Black Beard's gold and for Captain Kidd's treasure. Well, I have embarked on a quest of sorts. Many of you may think it is frivolous..a waste of time. But, when my attention is grasped and I think there may be a story buried or a mystery to be uncovered, I delve into it with great fervor.

I'm sure when you were on Crete, at one time or another you probably heard others talking about the hippies at Matala who were living in the caves there. It was Life Magazine which first ran a story with photos in 1968 about a number of young people called "hippies", who were living in caves at the little seaside village of Matala on the southern coast of Crete. But, of course, the caves weren't really caves at all, but rather Roman tombs. These young hippies had moved into the caves (tombs) to live their idyllic lifestyle. There were even reports that piles of bones, topped with human skulls, could be found in some of the caves. However, finally recognizing the historical and archaeological importance of these Roman tombs, the hippies had been forced to vacate the caves (tombs) years ago, probably in the mid or late 1970's. At any rate, sometime around October of 2009, I accidentally stumbled across a photograph on the internet entitled, "The Last Hippie at Matala", which was on Matala: Hippies and Real Fun on Facebook. I borrowed that photograph, along with some earlier photographs of the hippies at Matala and posted them on my blog in October 2009, along with some of my own photos of the caves and Matala after having visited there. Later I received an E-Mail from someone who had read my blog and claimed to know Scotty, the last hippie at Matala. NOTE: It should be pointed out here that Scotty is also variously known as Scotti, Skotty, or Skotti. The first report was that Scotty has passed away about a year earlier, but later this report was proven incorrect. Subsequently, it was reported that Scotty was suffering from ill health and a possible stroke, and was living in a home for the aged in the Iraklion area. But, around July 10, 2010, I received a link to a short video of a birthday gathering for Scotty in Matala. I was able to make contact with the man who shot the video. He stated that he believed Scotty was now living in a rest home for the elderly in the area of Mires, not far from Matala. Sensing the importance of documenting the significance of Scotty's life as the last hippie at Matala, I set out on a quest to track him down.

I took a bus to Matala shortly after mid-July 2010. When I arrived in Matala, I began to inquire of shop owners if any of them knew a man called, "Scotty". To my amazement, they all knew Scotty. The entire village of Matala was on a first name basis with Scotty! It seemed Scotty was a celebrity of sorts. I have been aware of only a few people who have ever been known only by their first name to the masses - Jesus, Napoleon, Elvis, and now...Scotty. When I asked the whereabouts of Scotty, no one seemed to know anything definitive. One older Greek gentleman said that Scotty was in Mires; a young woman said he was in a home for old people near Iraklion; and, at least two others said that he was in a monastery, being cared for by monks. I was told if anyone knew where Scotty was, it would be a man named, Franck. Franck apparently was a very close friend of Scotty's. When I asked where I might find Franck, I was told that he could usually be found walking down the main street in Matala. I had no idea what Franck looked like, but I was told it would be easy to spot him. He had long hair, an unkempt appearance, and was hobbling on a crutch due to a recent leg injury. I entered a small taverna on the main street in Matala, ordered a Cretan salad, a cold Mythos beer, and waited...and waited. It was a hot day and not much air was circulating in downtown Matala, so I ordered another Mythos. The second one tasted even better than the first...and colder, too! After having waited there for the better part of two hours, I came to the conclusion that either I had missed Franck, or else he had already come and gone. I left the taverna and began to wander around Matala, looking for anyone on a crutch or a cane...or even limping. But, I didn't see anyone who even remotely matched the description of Franck. I took the next bus out of Matala bound for Iraklion, arriving there in late afternoon. Then, I caught the Number 6 bus near Bus Station "B" for Amoudara. I arrived back at my apartment, hot, tired and disappointed that I had not come away from Matala with the knowledge of Scotty's location. I actually began to wonder if perhaps the people of Matala were trying to keep "outsiders" from learning the whereabouts of their beloved Scotty - as if they were attempting to protect him. Maybe they had even given me false or misleading information in an effort to direct me away from Scotty...to put me on a false trail. At that point I decided I needed to enlist the help of some my friends who lived here on Crete and to ask for their assistance. First I talked with friends of mine who owned a local hotel in Amoudara, and also with my very good friend, Miltiadis (Miltos). Miltos said that he would inquire of others about a monastery near Iraklion that cared for elderly people. Time passed. In the meantime, I was getting ready for Crete Reunion 2010. At our initial dinner on the evening of August 22, 2010, one of the wives of a former airman who was stationed at Iraklion Air Station, attempted to locate Scotty, but she didn't have any real success. Then, on August 26, 2010, Jim and Pat Janakes and I drove to Phaestos to visit the ancient archaeological ruins and then drove on to Matala. After taking several photos of the caves (Roman tombs) at Matala, we decided to have a drink and a little noonday snack at a small taverna just off the wooden walkway to the tombs. While there, I asked our waiter if he perhaps knew Scotty. Yes, he knew him, but he didn't know where Scotty was. Next, I asked if he knew Franck. He pointed to a small group of people seated on the ground just off the end of his taverna. "Franck," he called out, and then spoke something in Greek which I didn't understand. One man, seated on the ground, motioned for me to come over. He had a small crutch laying beside him. I approached him, introduced myself and asked if he knew Scotty. He nodded yes. I then asked if he knew where Scotty was and that I wanted to visit him. Franck told me the name of the place where Scotty was living and being cared for. When I returned to Amoudara that afternoon, I was told by a hotel proprietor that he had located the monastery in which Scotty was staying. He told me the name of the facility...it was the same name that Franck in Matala had given me. Finally, I felt as if I were finally closing in on Scotty - the last hippie at Matala!

On the evening of Monday, August 30, 2010, I received an E-Mail from an American friend of mine living here on Crete. He said that he knew exactly where Scotty was being cared for, and would arrive the next morning just after 9:30 A.M. to to take me to the monastery. And, true to his word, the following morning just after 9:30 A.M., Joe pulled up on his little Honda motorbike. Now, I wasn't really sure about riding on the back of a motorbike through Iraklion traffic, and I wondered if it was a bad omen when Joe and I pulled away from the front of my apartment with Joe wearing a helmet, and the only thing separating me from Eternity was only a thin layer of my hair that would act as a cushion between my skull and the pavement. However, I must admit that Joe knew the traffic and possessed the necessary skills to navigate safely. After only a couple of wrong turns, we pulled up in front of the Church. Around to the left side of the Church were signs that pointed to "Girokomeo", or a facility for elderly people. I followed the flight of stairs upward to a second story level. Through the double doors, I could see a long corridor lined with elderly people, most sitting in either chairs or on sofas in the hallway. The door was locked, so we proceeded downward in an attempt to find an alternate entrance. About that time, we heard the sound of doors being unlocked above. A white-haired man stood at the double doorways at the top of the stairs. I hurried upward, fearing that he might relock the doors before I had a chance to enter. I quickly stepped through the double doors and asked him, "Do you speak English?" He smiled, "Yes, a little." "Do you know a man named, Scotty?" I asked. "Yes," and then looking down the hallway, he called out, "Scotty!" He led us down the corridor to a man seated in a chair beside a sofa. The man was wearing a ball cap, had mostly white hair, light blue eyes, a scruffy beard and a toothless grin. I looked at him. "Are you Scotty?" I asked. "Yes, I am Scotty." At long last I had found the last hippie at Matala. I asked him if I could talk with him about his days at Matala. At first he seemed a little hesitant...almost reluctant, but then, as he began to open up, his light blue eyes danced about the room as he laughed and reminisced about a time long ago. He told me that he was born in 1940, but on my second visit with Scotty on September 3, 2010, he told me that he was born on June 20, 1939. This date was substantiated from a short biography about Scotty which I found online. From this same biography, I learned that Scotty's first name was actually Hans. Scotty told me that he was born in Scotland of a Scottish mother and a German father. During World War Two, Scotty's father organized resistance and fought against the Nazi regime. After the end of World War Two, Scotty and his parents moved to Germany where Scotty was raised and educated. I asked Scotty what year he first arrived in Matala. He told me that he first visited Matala at age eighteen (1957) with an uncle who had come to Crete on business, but he did not actually come to live at Matala until 1964 - at that time he would have been either twenty-four or twenty-five. I asked Scotty if he remembered any of those who had lived with him in the caves at Matala. He smiled and said that he remembered many of them, and even recalled the caves in which some of them had lived, but many of them were now dead. He reminded me there were many who had lived in the caves at Matala, and there was a constant coming and going of people. Some, who had been living there in the caves awhile became disillusioned with the hippie lifestyle and left, while others who were disillusioned with the lifestyle of the world sought refuge in the caves at Matala and to live the hippie lifestyle of free love, peace and flower power. So, apparently, there was a frequent turnover of tenants in the caves, but the rent was cheap and Scotty stayed on. I inquired of Scotty how he made money while living at Matala. He said, "I made jewelry and sold paintings." I learned that Scotty had actually studied art in Sweden and France. He told me that sometimes he would sell as many as four or five paintings in a day. "Good money," he said, smiling, as he rubbed the ends of his four fingers and thumb together.

Around Scotty's neck hung a small wooden cross and a long iron key almost five inches long. "Did you make the cross, Scotty?" I asked. "Yes, that was some of the jewelry I made at Matala," he replied. "And what is that key hanging around your neck?" I asked, pointing at the key dangling on a thin cord. "That is the key to my house in Matala," Scotty responded. "One day I will return." He gently caressed the key in his hand, almost as if it had feelings.

At one point during our interview, an elderly woman shuffled to Scotty's side. He reached up and slid his arm around her waist. "How do you like my hippie woman?" he asked, smiling. I couldn't help but smile myself. "Scotty, I like her just fine," I responded. Then the old woman reached around and with an unparalleled act of gentle kindness, softly stroked the side of Scotty's face. I don't believe that I have ever witnessed a kinder, more gentler act of affection than what I observed at that moment.

There were moments during the interview when I saw Scotty glancing wistfully out the window, while at the same time gently touching the large iron key that hung round his neck. But it didn't appear as if Scotty were looking at something in the courtyard or even in the garden below. His gaze seemed transfixed on something far away, perhaps on Matala, and perhaps to an era of youthful days that have long since evaporated like the morning mist.

Whether I agree or disagree with the counter-cultural, anti-establishment hippie philosophy of peace, love and flower power, is completely irrelevant. The hippie movement had a dramatic and international impact on war, peace, and everything that fell in between the two. I have to admire Scotty that he stuck with his convictions and never abandoned them. It would have been easy for him to have left Matala, just as all the rest eventually did. But he never deserted Matala or the hippie philosophy, even though he had been deserted by all the others who had come and gone in Matala.

When I left and walked through the garden and courtyard beneath the large building where Scotty now lived, I turned and looked up at the window under which Scotty and I had been seated. I couldn't help but feel that somehow Scotty's heart and spirit would always remain at Matala. As I walked away from the monastery, I think that I came to the realization that Scotty would never really die; he would just gradually fade into the tapestry woven from the threads of his very colorful life.

Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob Armistead
P.S.: Many thanks to George, Irini, Joe, Maro, and Miltos for your assistance in helping me locate Scotty and get to the monastery.
NOTE: Click on any photo to get a larger image.










UPPER LEFT PHOTO: August 31, 2010 - Scotty, the last hippie of Matala.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: August 31, 2010 - Scotty (L) and Bob Armistead (R) enjoy a light moment during the interview.















UPPER LEFT PHOTO: September 3, 2010 - Scotty, the last hippie of Matala, tilts his head to one side as he ponders an answer to a question.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: September 3, 2010 - Scotty, proudly shows off a wooden cross he carved while at Matala, and a large iron key to his home in Matala.















UPPER LEFT PHOTO: September 3, 2010 - Scotty (R) slips his arm around an older lady at the home, then smiles and asks, "How do you like my hippie woman?"
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: September 3, 2010 - In response, Scotty's hippie woman, gently pats the side of his face.









UPPER LEFT PHOTO: September 3, 2010 - Scotty (L), Matala's last hippie, and Bob Armistead (R) pose for one last photo together.
UPPER RIGHT PHOTO: September 3, 2010 - The monastery building in which Scotty now lives.

Monday, August 30, 2010

CRETE REUNION 2010

Dear Friends,

On the evening of August 22, 2010 at 7:00 P.M., Crete Reunion 2010 was kicked off at Uncle George's Taverna in the little seaside village of Amoudara. The first to arrive were Jim and Pat Janakes. Jim was assigned to Iraklion Air Station for 18 months during the years 1961-1962. Jim was trained as a 202 at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, and was first assigned to Okinawa before being transferred to work in the Security Compound at Iraklion Air Station. Jim currently owns his own business in California and is semi-retired. It should be noted that Jim was born in the USA, but to Greek parents. So, Jim is 100% Greek and still remembers many Greek words learned while growing up with his Greek parents and Grandparents. Jim and Pat had already arrived at Uncle George's Taverna before I arrived, and Kostas Sakoulakis, the owner of Uncle George's Taverna, had introduced himself and was talking with Jim and Pat when I walked in. The next to arrive were John and Jane Cocuzzi. John was trained as a medic, arrived at Iraklion Air Station in 1975 and was assigned to the Base Clinic. John got out of the Air Force after his first four year term, went back to school, got his degree in medicine, re-entered the Air Force as a doctor and retired after 20 years. John now works as a doctor for a community health service in San Angelo, Texas. The last to arrive were Joe and Maro Gussman. It would probably be easier to say when Joe was not assigned to Iraklion Air Station, then when he was assigned there. Joe served at Iraklion Air Station during the late 1950's, during the 1960's, the 1970's and the 1980's. He retired from the Air Force and has remained on Crete. We had a very nice dinner at Uncle George's Taverna and as we ate and drank, we shared many war stories from our respective times on Crete. But, even though we served on Crete at different times and in different career fields, there was that common link of Iraklion Air Station and Crete which inexplicably fused us together in a common bond of brotherhood and friendship!!! After about three and a half hours together, we said our "Goodbyes" and parted for the night.
On the morning of Monday, August 23, 2010, Jim & Pat Janakes met John & Jane Cocuzzi and myself just inside the main gate at Iraklion Air Station. We first proceeded to the Security Compound. It was an eerie feeling as we passed through the little guard shack. It seemed as if Jim and I should have been calling out a badge number so we could pass through, but there were no Security Policemen there, just shadows of memories that played through our minds. I had brought two mini maglites with me and John had brought a flashlight as well. I led the way into the north end of the building, and down a long hallway before turning left. Then, after several yards, I turned right and into the "Operations Room". It was empty, except for panels that had fallen from the ceiling and debris that had been scattered about the floor. For Jim and me, it brought back many memories...memories of men sitting at manual typewriters while monitoring radio receivers, of linguists hastily writing on tablets of paper, of analysts running reports to the front desk, and of X2's operating a myriad of automatic equipment. For John, it was the first time for him to have been in the Operations Building...the Security Compound...the Compound...or just the Pound. As a medic assigned to the Base Clinic, he had seen a number of "ditty boppers" who had suffered stress related problems. And, even though he had his own ideas about what transpired inside the Pound, he had only a general idea of the work that went on inside the building with no windows! From there we went to the Base Clinic. It was somewhat larger than what both Jim and I remembered it. John took us on a little walk-through tour of the clinic, explaining which rooms were used for what purposes. We went to the back of the building where the Emergency Room was located. John showed us the doors through which patients would be wheeled in on stretchers. I can't imagine having to make split-second, life or death decisions. I am glad it was John working there...and not me! From there we walked to the Airmen's Dining Hall. Apparently, sometime shortly before closing the base, there were extensive renovations made to the chow hall. The serving line formed a very large "J" shape, the kitchen had been enlarged, and the dining room was dramatically smaller. At either end of the dining room was an area which was elevated. It looked as if it could have been used as a small stage; perhaps they had live entertainment on some days. Next we proceeded to the barracks where John and Jim had both lived during their respective tours at I.A.S., Building #304. John took a few photos of his room, and Jim returned on a later day to do the same. Jim had memories of marathon card games going on in the room directly across the hall from his room. Our last stop was where the flag poles once stood. The poles are gone now, and much of the splendid adornment around where the flag poles once stood has been damaged or destroyed by vandals. We all remembered how quickly we hurried between buildings as it was approaching 4:30 P.M. If we were outside when the national anthems of Greece and the USA were played, we had to stand at attention until the flags were lowered. How I would love to see the Greek and American flags waving side by side again and to hear those anthems played at the close of the work day! We left Iraklion Air Station and drove west about three miles to Kokkini Chani where we all had lunch together at a little taverna just yards from the shore. The shade and gentle breeze provided a needed respite from the sun and the heat. After lunch, Jim and Pat had to drive into Iraklion to get some Euros, while John, Jane, and I returned to Amoudara. John had already begun having problems with his back. So, he and Jane returned to the MariRena Hotel to rest, and I returned to my little apartment. Later that evening as John and Jane were returning from Popi's little taverna, they stopped by my apartment and joined me on the patio for a little raki.
On August 24, 2010, we all left Amoudara at about 4:00 P.M. and drove to the little mountain village of Anogia. We stopped in the village square to read a commemorative plaque which read: "Order of the German Commander of the Garrison of Crete: Since the town of Anogia is a centre of the English espionage in Crete, since the Anogians carried out the murder of the sergeant of the Yeni-Gaves garrison and the garrison itself, since the Anogians carried out the sabotage at Damasta, since the andartes of various resistance bands find asylum and protection in Anogia, and since the abductors of General Kreipe passed through Anogia , using Anogia as a stopping place when transporting him, we order its RAZING to the ground and its execution of every male Anogian who is found within the village and within an area of one kilometre around it. Chania, 13-8-44, The Commander of the Garrison of Crete, H. Muller." This was a chilling reminder of what the Cretans endured during their darkest days of World War Two. But, the significance is that they never gave up...the Cretans NEVER surrendered!
Later we drove to the lower level of the village of Anogia. There we found numerous shops in which the ladies could browse and shop. The guys made our way to a little taverna where we could sit, have a cold beer, and just relax. John Cocuzzi sat at a table with a local Greek, and established a friendship that neither will soon forget. John had studied Greek in Athens, and it quickly returned to him as he sat talking with the Cretans. Jim and I were content to sit at a table, sipping a cold Mythos, and enjoying the cooler temperature and the lower humidity. Shortly, the ladies joined us and a decision was made to head back to Amoudara. Because John had been on his feet so long, his back soon began to remind him accordingly. About halfway down the mountain, John pulled over to the side of the road, got into the back seat and laid down. I drove the rest of the way back to Amoudara. Upon our arrival, John made his way to his room at the MariRena Hotel. Jim, Pat, Jane and I made our way up the western end of Amoudara to a taverna named, "Thea", perched high on a hillside overlooking the bay of Amoudara. The name "Thea", means, "view". And, oh, what a view it was!!! On the evening of August 24,2010, there was a full moon rising over the eastern end of the bay of Amoudara, just opposite of the Thea Taverna. It was a gorgeous site to behold! The silver rays from the full moon danced on the ripples of water in the bay of Amoudara. We were captivated...hypnotized as we grabbed our cameras and began to "click" away. The food was very good, but the view was absolutely captivating!!!
On Wednesday, August, 25, 2010, Jim and Pat drove to Saint Nikolaos for the day, and John and Jane stuck close to Amoudara. That evening, we all had dinner together at the Dionysus Taverna, adjacent to the MariRena Hotel.
On Thursday morning, August 26, 2010, Jim and Pat Janakes and I left Amoudara about 9:30 A.M. and traveled by car to the ancient archaeological ruins located at Phaestos. Jim and I looked about the ruins, while Pat took advantage of the shade. Later we all sat in the shade at a small taverna. Pat had Coke while Jim and I had a cold Mythos beer and we all enjoyed the view of the Messara Plain below us and the mountains in the distance...truly a panoramic scene. Then we drove on to Matala. Jim and I explored a few of the ancient Roman tombs, which were later used by the hippies at Matala in the 1960's and 1970's as their places of dwelling. We both took several photos of the tombs as well as of the sea, the beach and the little village. On our way back from the Roman tombs, we stopped by a little taverna just off the wooden walkway leading from the tombs. There, we all had iced coffee and a bowl of sliced fruit. It was a refreshing snack on such a warm day. We returned to Amoudara about mid-afternoon and headed straight for Popi's little taverna on the beach. Jim and I ordered the fish dinner, while Pat had a sandwich. The meal was a nice way to conclude the day, then we sat, relaxed, sipped beer and wine, and enjoyed the simple ambiance of Popi's Taverna with the Mediterranean Sea in the background. We left Popi's about 6:35 P.M. Jim and Pat dropped me at my apartment, before heading back to Arolithos.
For the first half of August 27th., we all just took time to rest and catch our collective breaths! John and Jane relaxed down at the beach by the water's edge, and John did venture into the sea, but that may have been a mistake. John forget to remove the keys to the rental car as well as the hotel key from his pockets. Unfortunately, those keys came out of John's pockets and were claimed by the Mediterranean Sea. Who knows, perhaps one day in the distant future, some underwater archaeologist might discover the keys and wonder about their history. Because John's back was still causing him great discomfort, he and Jane were unable to join Jim, Pat, myself, and my Greek friend, Miltiadis (Miltos) Apladas, for dinner near the mountain village of Kroussonas. We dined outside at a little roadside taverna called Baxas Taverna. Before it became dark, we could see the lush green hillsides and fertile valley below filled with groves of olive trees and vineyards. And, off in the distance, small villages with their whitewashed houses dotted the hillsides like small white patches of snow. As it grew dark, the food was brought to our table by our waiter, Spiros. George was the cook. We had several appetizers, including small pieces of lamb's liver, slices of cheese made from goat's milk, salad, and a type of creamed cheese that was nice to spread on slices of fresh bread. For the main course we were served a type of creamed pilaf, potatoes cooked with the hot juices from lamb meat, lamb shanks, and barbecued lamb ribs. A large decanter of white wine was placed in front of Pat, which she graciously shared with me. After dinner came a type of pastry with honey dripped over it, plus watermelon and honey dew melon. Naturally, the end of any dinner could not be complete without some raki to sip with the melon. Jim told me that eating the lamb dishes reminded him much of his youth when his Grandfather would prepare such dishes. Jim drove first to Gazi, where we let Miltos off in front of his home, and then it was back to Amoudara for me. We agreed to meet the following afternoon at the MariRena Hotel for drinks.
On the late afternoon of August 28, 2010, Jim, Pat and met at the MariRena Hotel to see if John and Jane would be able to join us for dinner. Pat had made a wonderful suggestion earlier, that because we had kicked off the reunion at Uncle George's Taverna, it would be quite fitting to conclude it there. Unfortunately, John's back was still causing problems, so he and Jane decided it would be best not to join us for dinner. We all had a round of drinks at the MariRena Hotel before Jim, Pat, and I walked to Uncle George's Taverna for "the last supper". We had an enjoyable meal together, but it ended all too soon. I felt as if I had made some wonderful new friends, and I hated to see them go. But, after eating, we had to say our "Goodbyes", because Jim and Pat had to be at the airport early the next morning to turn in their rental car, then hail a taxi to the Iraklion Harbor to catch a ferry first to Mykonos and then to Santorini before flying back the the USA.

I was up early the following morning to assist John and Jane with loading their bags and other belongings into their rental car. They were to catch a flight out of Iraklion to Athens where they would spend a few days, hoping that John's back would recover. Then it was off to London and from there back to the United States. We said "Goodbye" and I watched as they drove out of sight.
Now, I don't know if I will ever see any of these fine folks again...but I sincerely hope so. All who attended the reunion are very good people...and I came away from Crete Reunion 2010, feeling much richer because in just a few short days, I had made some really fine new friends. My genuine hope now is...if any of our paths should ever happen to cross again, I hope that it will be on this wonderful island paradise that we call Crete.
As always, take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.



Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob Armistead


NOTE: Click on any photo for a larger view.












ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 22, 2010 at Uncle George's Taverna - Seated clockwise from left : John Cocuzzi, Pat Janakes, Jim Janakes, Bob Armistead, Joe Gussman, Maro Gussman, & Jane Cocuzzi.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 23, 2010 - Jim Janakes (L) and John Cocuzzi (R) stand in front of Building 406...the Compound at Iraklion Air Station, Crete, Greece.















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 23, 2010 - Bob Armistead (L), Jim Janakes (C), and John Cocuzzi (R) stand where the Greek and American Flags once flew at Iraklion Air Station.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 23, 2010 - Left to right: Pat Janakes, Jim Janakes, John Cocuzzi and Jane Cocuzzi.














ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 24, 2010 - John Cocuzzi models the traditional Cretan men's headwear called the "bolitha", in the small mountain village of Anogia on Crete.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 24, 2010 - An elderly Cretan man sits outside the Skoulas Taverna in the village of Anogia. I wonder if he was one of the "andartes" who resisted the Germans in World War Two?















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 24, 2010 - An elderly man sits outside the Skoulas Taverna in the mountain village of Anogia on Crete.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 24, 2010 - John Cocuzzi (R) engages a local Cretan in a livley exchange in the village of Anogia on Crete.




















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 24, 2010 - An elderly Cretan in the mountain village of Anogia poses for one last photo in front of the Skoulas Taverna.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 24, 2010 - A Cretan man handles his "worry beads" outside a small taverna in Anogia on Crete.
















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 24, 2010 - Jim and Pat Janakes, Jane Cocuzzi, and I had dinner at the Thea Taverna a few kilometers to the west of Amoudara in the hillside village of Rodia. The Greek word, "thea", means "view". The taverna overlooked the bay at Amoudara.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 24, 2010 - Photo taken from the Thea Taverna in the little village of Rodia. The moon rises and sparkels over the bay and village of Amoudara.
















ABOVE LLEFT PHOTO: August 26, 2010 - Jim and Pat Janakes and I rode to the ancient archeological ruins at Phaestos in the south central part of Crete.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 26, 2010 - These large urns were most likely used as storage contains at the ruins of Phaestos on Crete.
























ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 26, 2010 - Large urn located at the archeological ruins of Phaestos on Crete.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 26, 2010 - An open plaza...perhaps "agora" at the ancient palace of Phaestos.

















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 26, 2010 - View from Phaestos looking northwest.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 26, 2010 - Jim and Pat Janakes enjoy iced coffee and fruit at a small taverna near the ancient Roman tombs (caves) at Matala. In the 1960's and 1970's, hippies lived in the tombs (caves) for several years.
















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 26, 2010 - Jim and Pat Janakes enjoy wine and a cold beer at Popi's Taverna by the beach. The Mediterranean Sea can be seen in the background.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 26, 2010 - Pat Janakes (L), Popi Mavraki (C), and Jim Janakes (R) pose for a photograph together at Popi's Taverna.
















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 27, 2010 - This is the view from the Baxas Taverna near the mountain village of Kroussonas.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 27, 2010 - View from the Baxas Taverna near the mountain village of Krousonas. Just before sundown.
















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 27, 2010 - Left to right: Jim Janakes, Pat Janakes, and Miltiadis (Miltos) Apladas enjoy a meal at the Baxas Taverna near the village of Kroussonas.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 27, 2010 - Left to right: Miltiadis (Miltos) Apladas, Bob Armistead, Jim Janakes and Pat Janakes at the Baxas Taverna near the village of Krousonas.
















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: August 27, 2010 - Clockwise from left: Jim Janakes, Pat Janakes, Miltiadis (Miltos) Apladas, and Bob Armistead enjoy a traditional Cretan meal outside the Baxas Taverna.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: August 28, 2010 - Left to right: John Cocuzzi, Jane Cocuzzi, Bob Armistead, Pat Janakes, and Jim Janakes stand near the pool of the MariRena Hotel. We all had drinks together, before Jim, Pat, and I went to Uncle George's Taverna for our final meal together.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

THE RIDE OF MY LIFE!

Dear Friends,
After looking at the title of this commentary, I imagine most of you are probably thinking this entry is going to be about an automobile running out of control, or a motorcycle with the throttle stuck wide open, or a runaway locomotive without an engineer at the controls, or an airplane flying through violent turbulence, or maybe even a wild ride at the county fair. And some of you, with more erotic minds, may think it is entirely something else! But, actually, it is none of the above.

Before I share this story with you, I will say that I have told it before; however, my modesty demanded that I leave out certain rather embarrassing and explicit details. But, there comes a time, as each day we get a little closer to the final chapter and the last page of our lives, we begin to realize there are some stories that are just too damn good to take to the grave. So, with that in mind, I have set aside my modesty and pride, and present, THE RIDE OF MY LIFE!!!

Back when I was assigned to Iraklion Air Station on Crete in the late 1960's and early 1970's, someone told me of an island that was just too good to miss - almost too good to be true...where there was lush vegetation, the natives were friendly, the food was great, and thousands...and I mean thousands of beautiful "touristas" from Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Holland came in droves to visit the island...and the vast majority of those "touristas" were beautiful, blond haired, gorgeous young ladies. That island was Rhodes. One of the reasons for its popularity was that Rhodes had an international airport, while at that same time, Crete did not. They could fly directly from their native Scandinavian countries to Rhodes without having to go through Athens, or pass through customs in Athens, or having to change planes to a domestic airline flying out of Athens.

The same person who told me about Rhodes also suggested that I stay at the Hotel Angela in the capital city of Rhodes. It was inexpensive and it also gave a military discount to those of us serving in the U.S. Air Force on Crete. So, armed with this information, I set out in the early summer of 1969 on what would become the first of many adventures on Rhodes. After my first visit there, I knew I was hopelessly addicted to Rhodes. I took several leaves there in 1969 as well as many of my four day breaks there. And, again in 1970, I returned there numerous times. But, in mid-summer of 1971, I took what would be my final leave on Rhodes, as my tour on Crete was drawing to a close and I would be leaving in August to return to the USA. Each time that I visited Rhodes I always stayed at the Hotel Angela, and when I returned to Crete, I would tell my friends about how nice the staff at the Hotel Angela were and how inexpensive it was. Yes, I know what you are about to ask. "Bob, just how inexpensive was it?" Well, it cost the equivalent of $2.50 per night!

During my many visits to Rhodes, I had become friendly with several of the staff at the Hotel Angela. I had gotten to know Angelo the bartender extremely well...a young man in his twenties with dark hair and dark eyes, and with lean features. He could mix a mean whiskey sour or just about anything else you could think of. Behind the bar, Angelo was a combination of artist and chemist! His movements were sure and fluid as he moved quickly behind the bar, grasping this bottle or that bottle, pouring specific amounts of alcohol, tonics, mixers, or seltzers into the glass, and then, when finished, raising the drink into the air almost like an offering to the god of drinking, all the while gazing at it through the light, and then smiling to himself much like an artist who has just completed a masterpiece. He would then place the drink in front of you on a napkin, and with his heavy Greek accent, would say, "Try this. I think it is just what you wanted." If there had ever been a Nobel Prize awarded for bar tending, Angelo surely would have walked away with the prize and the medal! After having visited Rhodes and the Hotel Angela just a few times, Angelo started calling me "Boss". It sort of reminded me how Zorba referred to the Englishman as "Boss" in ZORBA THE GREEK.

Then there was Alex, the manager of the Hotel Angela. He was probably in his mid-thirties. He always wore a white shirt that seemed to have too much starch in the collar, for he was always running his finger around the collar as if to loosen it from around his neck. But, whether this was just a nervous habit or if the starched collar really was irritating his neck, I guess I will never know. He was constantly going from guest to guest, trying to make sure that everyone was satisfied - everyone was happy. I got the impression that Alex was one of these guys who was always afraid of losing his job. After all, he was just the manager of the hotel and at the mercy of the owners. Alex's face seemed to always appear a little red, like his blood pressure was high. I felt rather sorry for him; he worked his ass off, and whatever the owners were paying Alex, wasn't nearly enough! He was the type of guy who you knew was working himself into an early grave.

One afternoon I was sitting at the bar in the lobby of the Hotel Angela. Angelo the bartender and I had been talking - I don't remember about what...and after forty years it really doesn't matter. I saw Alex, the hotel manager, approaching from the direction of the registration desk. He walked over and sat on the bar stool next to mine, and with his Greek accent spoke: "Bob, we have a slight problem on Rhodes, and I want to ask a big favor of you, my friend." "Sure, Alex. What can I do to help?" I asked. Alex then proceeded to tell me there were more tourists in the city of Rhodes then there were hotel rooms. Tourists were sleeping in parks, on sidewalks, and even on the floors of open-air tavernas after they had closed for the evening. Alex further stated that the Ministry of Tourism had even asked individuals to open their homes and rent a room for a few nights to some of the tourists to ease the burden and get them off the streets. Then, Alex asked, "Bob, how many hours a night do you spend in your room? Six? Seven?" "Well, Alex, to be honest I probably don't spend more than four or five hours sleeping, and then I am up and gone at daybreak. Why?" I responded. I was a little curious as to where this conversation was leading. "Well, the Minister of Tourism has asked the hotel managers to try to find a way to free up more rooms - to help ease the problem. So, I have a proposition for you." For a moment, I could almost visualize Alex stepping out from a little souvenir shop, taking me by the arm and gently guiding me inside, all the while saying, "My friend, come inside. Look around. I have special deal for you - just because I like you." "And, what are you proposing, Alex?" I inquired. "Well, there is a rather large room in the basement which we normally don't rent out; however, these are not normal times. It has a bed, wardrobe, sink and toilette. It has no tub or shower, but there is a utility bathroom on the fifth floor which does. If you want this room, I will let you have it for 50 cents a night. That would free up one more room for the touristas. And, I would give you a key to the utility bathroom on the fifth floor." Now, I have never been one to walk away from a good deal; however, when I saw this one, I didn't want to appear overly eager to accept it either. "Well, Alex, I don't know...", I hesitated. "Oh, please, Bob," Alex pleaded, all the while looking at me with his sad, little, puppy dog eyes. "Oh, O.K. But, I want you to know that I am giving up the comfort of a nice room with a beautiful view, just to help you out, my friend," I said. "Yes, yes. I know that. And I am deeply indebted to you, Bob. I will get the key to the room in the basement and the key to the fifth floor utility bathroom. Thank you," Alex replied. "You're welcome, Alex. After all, I always want to do my part to help keep those lovely touristas happy." I smiled. I was actually a little proud of myself for having landed such a sweet deal, especially on the salary of a Sergeant! Alex returned in just a few moments with the keys to my new basement bedroom and to the fifth floor utility bathroom. I then left and removed all of my belongings to my new abode in the basement. It really was a very spacious room...almost too big, and because of its size, it almost seemed rather bare with just the bed, sink, commode and wardrobe.

The following afternoon, I had decided to walk down to the beach, catch some rays (lay in the sun), and check out the lovely Scandinavian lady touristas. Because I was so fair skinned, I applied a liberal coating of suntan lotion all over my body before stretching out on my blanket. I made certain that I didn't overdo it, so after just thirty minutes on each side, I decided to play it safe and return to the hotel at about 4 o'clock that the afternoon. Standing in front of the elevator door in the hotel lobby, I pushed the arrow pointing "down" toward the basement. Even though there were others waiting to get on the elevator, when they saw it was headed to the basement, none of them got on. Once in the basement, I unlocked my room door and went in. There was a full length mirror on the back of the door. I stood before it and looked to see if I had got too much sun. I was relieved to see that I had just a hint of pink, but, I also noticed that I needed to take a shower to wash off all that suntan lotion. As I undressed, I began to devise my plan...to work out the details of my scenario to get from my room in the basement to the utility bathroom on the fifth floor without attracting too much attention. Confident in my plan, I took the bath towel and attempted to wrap it around my completely nekked (that's Southern for "naked") body. At this point I must remind you that the Hotel Angela was not a four-star hotel, and they didn't provide any four-star bath towels. The bath towel provided me was just barely large enough to wrap around my naked mid-section, but was too short to tie or tuck the ends together. So, I had to tightly grasp both ends of the towel at my mid-section with one hand to keep it from falling completely off. With a bar of soap in one hand and the ends of the towel tightly clinched in my other hand, I stepped out of my room, walked down the hallway to the elevator and pushed the button. I knew that when those waiting in the lobby above saw the elevator was going to the basement, most likely none of them would get on. And, I really didn't want any gawkers on the elevator with me...especially in my modest, almost completely nude state. When the elevator door opened, sure enough it was empty! My plan was put into motion. In order to insure that I could travel from the basement to the utility bathroom on the fifth floor alone and without anyone gawking at this nearly-nude American, I stepped onto the elevator, pushed the "5th Floor" button, and instantly pushed the "Non-Stop" button. I felt confident, almost smug, as the elevator jolted to life. However, my feeling of security was short lived as the elevator began slowing when it approached the first floor. I started banging on the "Non-Stop" button, but to no avail. Obviously, it was either broken or had been disconnected. I stepped back in horror against the back of the elevator as it stopped and the door slowly slid open. Now folks, at the time, I think the world population was about 4 billion people. Well, it looked as if the vast majority of them were crowded into the lobby of the Hotel Angela waiting to get on that elevator. At first they hesitated, staring at this mostly nude young man standing at the rear of the elevator. Then, some brave soul took a step forward and the others followed closely behind. I could hear snickering as some tried to contain their laughter, and others whispered, God only knows what, in foreign tongues. The elevator door closed and there I was - trapped, nearly nekked, with complete strangers closely crowded around me. The elevator came to life as it left the first floor. It was at this point that Murphy's Law was set into motion. There was a man standing directly in front of me wearing a flashy print shirt, flared dress slacks, and thirty pounds of gold chains hanging around his neck. I don't know why, but for some unknown reason he decided to take half a step back. When he did, one of his hard-soled, Italian made, pointy-toed shoes stepped solidly on my bare toes. It was then that events began to move along rather rapidly!! I let out a wild shriek of agony as I dropped both my bar of soap and the towel that WAS wrapped around my mid-section covering my gender, to the floor. Up to that point in my life, I had never been much of dancer, but I suddenly found myself whooping and hollering, while at the same time jumping up and down on one foot like a drunken Indian doing a war dance! Flashes of piercing light shot before my eyes and my screams must have reached a crescendo that only a dog's ear could hear. Others on the elevator quickly turned to see what the commotion was all about. When they saw this completely nekked man jumping up and down, their screams joined mine in a chorus of pain and astonishment - I was in pain and they were astonished! Men stood wide-eyed, older women swooned, and some of the younger ladies just smiled. And then, the elevator came to a stop at the second floor and the door opened. Apparently, all of them must have had rooms on the second floor, because as soon as the door opened ALL of them made a mass exodus from the elevator, none of them looking back, except for one young lady, who took one last brief parting glance. I think she may have even smiled.

I grabbed the towel from the floor and hit the "5th Floor" button as well as the "Non-Stop" button, cursing loudly as I did so. I rewrapped the towel around my waist and held it even more tightly now as I picked up my bar of soap from the floor. Even though it wasn't really hot on the elevator, I was sweating profusely. I trembled as the elevator approached and then passed the 3rd Floor, next the 4th Floor, then finally stopping at the 5th Floor. When the elevator door opened, I stuck my head out, and looked to see if anyone was nearby. Seeing no one, I limped quickly off the elevator, turned right, and the utility bathroom was right there. I unlocked the door, stepped in, closed and locked it behind me, and sat on the commode seat while I assessed what had just happened and attempted to regain my composure. I looked down at my toes which had been stepped on. They were an angry red, and for a moment I imagined that I could almost read an imprint, "Made in Italy", mashed into one of my toes, but perhaps I was just hallucinating from the pain. As I closed my eyes briefly, I could envision myself confronting the man who had stepped on my toes, and then using the gold chains around his neck to hang him from the elevator shaft. After a while, the throbbing in my toes began to subside, I stopped sweating, and I started to calm down. I decided to go ahead and get my shower, and then plan how I would return to my room in the basement - after all, what goes up, MUST come down...eventually. After my shower, I came to the conclusion that I would come down later...much, much later. By now it was fast approaching 6 P.M. All of the cleaning personnel had left for the day, so I knew I could stay in the utility bathroom for as long as I wished...and I wished to stay in there for a very, very long time. Not wanting to carry out a repeat performance from earlier that afternoon, I decided that I had to stay in my hidden retreat until most everyone had gone to bed, then I would get on the elevator and hope (and pray) I could make it back to my basement room without the elevator stopping to take on any riders. I passed the time by counting tiles on the floor, then the ones on the ceiling, and then the ones covering the walls. Before I left the bathroom, I knew exactly how many tiles it took to cover the entire bathroom, and I carried that bit of useless trivia with me for many years. Years later, when I finally came to the inexplicable conclusion that Alex Trebec on Jeopardy would probably never ask me how many tiles it took to cover the entire fifth floor utility bathroom in the Hotel Angela, I allowed that information to sift through the grates in my mind and fall into the black hole of forgetfulness forever. The minutes slowly ticked by, and then those minutes turned into hours. I was getting sleepy, but I knew that I mustn't fall asleep and perhaps run the risk of waking up later the next morning when the hotel guests would once again be stirring. Finally, at about 3 A.M., I opened the bathroom door, stuck my head out, and listened; I could hear nothing and I could see no one. With my towel gripped tightly around my loins, I made my way to the elevator. I could hear the steel cables straining and groaning as they lifted the elevator to the fifth floor. The door opened and I entered an empty elevator. The ride to the basement was completely uneventful...just the way I wanted it. I slept late the next morning, exhausted from the previous day's events and also from remaining awake until I felt safe about leaving the fifth floor utility bathroom. After getting dressed and leaving the hotel, I ate a light meal and walked around the old city, returning to the hotel later that afternoon. I made my way across the lobby to the bar where Angelo was working. "Hello, Boss. What you want today? Whiskey sour? Ouzo? How about a little raki?" Angelo asked. "No, I think I'll just have a straight Coke," I replied. Angelo looked rather stunned. "What? No whiskey sour? You have a bad night, Boss?" "Uh, yeah, I think you could say that, Angelo," I sighed. "O.K., Boss, one Coke coming right up." Angelo smiled as he sat it in front of me. I lifted my glass into the air, "Yamas, Angelo." As I raised the glass to my lips and begin to sip, Angelo said, "You know, Boss, did you hear about the commotion on the elevator yesterday afternoon? Some guy was naked on the elevator!" The Coke, which had so peacefully started to slip across my tongue and toward the back of my throat, was suddenly and violently thrust upward, making a burning exit out my nostrils! "Boss! You O.K.?" Angelo blurted out. He handed me a napkin as I coughed and gasped. "Yesss," I wheezed, "I'm O.K., Angelo." Visions of being arrested by the Greek police for public indecency began to play though my mind, and I could imagine being thrown into a jail cell with someone whose Greek name translated into "Bubba". "Do they know who he was?" I asked. "No. He was young. Besides, I heard everyone ran out of the elevator on the second floor," responded Angelo, "and I don't think anyone was looking at his face anyway, Boss." Angelo began to smile and then, as he leaned across the bar, he whispered, "Where were you yesterday afternoon, Boss?" "Ummmm,...I was out... out taking a ride, Angelo. Yes, that was it, I was out taking the ride of my life!" I stammered. Angelo and I just smiled at each other across the bar, each knowing what the other was thinking.

Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob (Elevator Man) Armistead

Thursday, August 12, 2010

IT'S A SMALL, SMALL WORLD!

Dear Friends,

On the morning of Monday, August 2, 2010, I had left my apartment that morning in Amoudara, caught the bus and traveled toward the western edge of Iraklion to do a little shopping at a grocery/Wal-Mart wanna-be store called, CarreFour. This is a large French-owned company dealing in food products as well as clothes, electronics, house wares, etc. I needed to buy a few groceries to restock my little apartment in Amoudara. After returning to my apartment, I put away my groceries, turned on my laptop computer, and then checked my E-Mails. To my surprise I had an E-Mail from David Garza, stating that he was on Crete, and that he would like to meet me at 1:00 P.M. that afternoon at Lion's Square (Morosini Fountain) in downtown Iraklion. I sent a reply E-Mail back to David telling him that I would be there at Lion's Square promptly at 1:00 P.M., and that I could be readily identified by the "Superman" T-shirt that I would be wearing.

I hurriedly took a quick shower, ironed some clean hiking shorts, donned my "Superman" T-shirt and caught the #1 bus into downtown Iraklion from Amoudara. The traffic was heavy and I was a little concerned that I might not arrive at Lion's Square by 1:00 P.M. However, I just did make it in time with a few minutes to spare. I departed the bus just a short distance from the Astoria Hotel in Eleftherius Square. I made my way along Dikeossinis Street and after a few blocks turned right toward Lion's Square, arriving there just a few minutes before 1:00 P.M. It was a hot and bright, sunny day, and the sun beat down, forcing everyone to retreat to any shade that could be found. Even though it was a bit windy down by the harbor and near the beach, the closely constructed buildings in Iraklion prevented the air from moving much near Lion's Square. In his E-Mail, David had told me he would be wearing an orange tank-top shirt. I looked around, but didn't see anyone matching that description. I sat down under a tree that had a little wooden bench built around its base. The minutes ticked by. Promptly at 1:00 P.M., I decided to stand up and walk around the fountain at Lion's Square. At that moment, I noticed a guy wearing an orange tank-top shirt waving at me, not thirty feet from where I had been sitting. We approached each other. "David?" I asked. "Yes, I'm David." We shook hands like long lost friends. Even though we had never met before this moment, I felt an immediate close camaraderie with David. I knew that he and I shared a common kinship...Iraklion Air Station...Crete...the Security Service. We talked for several minutes while David's wife, Marietta, walked down 25th of August Street to book passage for her, David, and their daughter, Brigitte, on a ferry to Santorini later that week. When she returned, we all followed Marietta's brother, Kostas, as he led us to a cozy little taverna not far from Lion's Square. After having placed our order, we sat there talking about Iraklion Air Station and how it had changed from the time I arrived there in late 1968, until David had arrived there in 1980. It was then that I learned that David's wife, Marietta, was Cretan! Naturally, I just assumed they had met on Crete, but that wasn't the case. Marietta had traveled to Florida with her Aunt and Uncle on a visitor's visa. After a few weeks, they traveled on to their next duty station at Goodfellow Air Force Base at San Angelo, Texas. That is where David and Marietta met, fell in love, got married, and, as they say, "the rest is history".

When David and Marietta got married, David's security clearance was temporarily pulled, pending the outcome of a background check on Marietta. However, when Marietta's background check was completed and David's security clearance reinstated, David got orders for...can you believe this...Crete!!! Of all the places in the world that David could have got orders for, he got them for Crete...his wife's native island!!! How lucky can one man get? Surely the Greek gods of ancient mythology were smiling down on David and Marietta!

As David and I talked, he indicated how fortunate he considered himself to have been. Not only had he been able to participate in events on the base, but off duty he was able to interact with the local Cretans through his wife and his wife's relatives! He visited small, remote villages, experienced local traditions and festivities, and developed a genuine love for Crete and its people. I have to say that I envied David and his very close relationship to Crete through his wife and her relatives! David left Crete in 1982 and proudly served with the U.S.A.F., finally retiring after 22 (or 24?) years of dedicated and loyal service to the U.S. Air Force and our Country!!!

I am not sure how long we all sat in the little taverna in downtown Iraklion, but the time slipped by all too fast, and pretty soon it was time for us all to depart...David and his family to return to the home of Marietta's Mother, and me back to Amoudara. Now, this is the part I like: David and I shook hands, but I got to hug his lovely wife, Marietta, and his beautiful daughter, Brigitte. I really think the significance of the meeting between David, his family, and me was this: Even though we had never met before, we felt like we were already good friends because of the common bond of Iraklion Air Station, Crete, and the Air Force Security Service. Thanks David, Marietta, and Brigitte for a memorable and wonderful afternoon!

As always, stay well, keep in touch, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob Armistead
NOTE: Click on any photo to get a larger image.













LEFT PHOTO: Brigitte Garza (L), Marietta Garza (C), David Garza (R) at a little taverna in downtown Iraklion - August 2, 2010.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: David Garza (L), Brigitte Garza (C), Marietta Garza (R) at a little taverna in downtown Iraklion - August 2, 2010.








LEFT PHOTO: Bob (Superman) Armistead (Far Left), Brigitte Garza (Center Left), Marietta Garza (Center Right), and David Garza (Far right) enjoy time together at a small taverna in downtown Iraklion - August 2, 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

UNCLE GEORGE'S TAVERNA

Dear Friends,


During the past several years, I have had the very distinct pleasure of meeting many fine people here in the little seaside village of Amoudara on Crete, but none of them has been any nicer and more pleasant than Kostas Sakoulakis. Kostas and his family own and operate Uncle George's Taverna in Amoudara. But, before I tell you about Uncle George's Taverna, I want to share a little information about Kostas with you. In 1984 when Kostas was still a very young man, just twenty years old, he left his native Crete and traveled to New York City to live with his Uncle John and to attend college in the United States. While attending college, Kostas also worked for his Uncle in the family run business, a small chain of four Greek restaurants, each aptly named, "The Aegean Restaurant", on Long Island. During that time, Kostas developed a genuine love and admiration for America, and in 1988, just four years after having arrived in the United States, Kostas became a naturalized citizen. This was just the beginning for Kostas of living the American Dream! And, two years later, through hard work, sheer determination, and saving his money, Kostas was able to purchase one of the four restaurants from his Uncle John. Things were going very well for Kostas; his business grew and his restaurant gained the reputation for being one of the finest Greek restaurants on all of Long Island. But, then, Kostas' father, George, became seriously ill. Kostas sold his restaurant back to his Uncle John and returned to his home on Crete in 1998 to assist caring for his ailing Father and to help run the family restaurant, Uncle George's Taverna.



That brings us to the present. Today, through the efforts of Kostas and his family, Uncle George's Taverna has become one of the finest Greek restaurants in Amoudara, serving authentic Greek cuisine and also providing some of the best service on the island. Kostas sees that his food contains only the freshest vegetables and ingredients. None of the food contains any artificial preservatives and much of it is organically grown. The food is never prepared in advance, but rather, each dish is prepared as the customer orders it, assuring only the freshest and highest quality.

The restaurant itself is actually divided into three areas: There is a dining area completely enclosed for those who prefer eating inside; there is a dining area which is outside and exposed on two sides, yet under a roof; and, there is a dining area which is outside and uncovered, except for grape vines and beautiful flowers growing overhead. The entire dining experience at Uncle George's is one of a relaxed atmosphere, genuine Greek food that is tastefully prepared, and a staff, headed by Kostas and his family, who are eager to make your dining experience at Uncle George's one of the highlights of your visit! But perhaps most importantly, when you visit Uncle George's Taverna, Kostas is going to treat you like part of his family! This is one of the reasons why I have selected Uncle George's Taverna at 124 A. Papandreou Street in Amoudara to be the inital gathering place for the Crete Reunion 2010 at 7:00 P.M. on August 22, 2010. See you there!


I hope you will take time to look at the photographs below of Uncle George's Taverna. And remember this: If you visit Amoudara and you don't stop by and try some of the delicious food at Uncle George's Taverna, then you have missed a real treat!!!

Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob Armistead

























ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: Uncle George's Taverna at 124 A. Papandreou Street in Amoudara, Crete.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: Kostas Sakoulakis greets you at the entrance to Uncle George's Taverna with a smile and a menu.




















ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: The inside dining area of Uncle George's Taverna.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: The outside dining area of Uncle George's Taverna with the covered roof.































ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: The outside dining area of Uncle George's Taverna with just the flowers, trees and sunshine above.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: The chef prepares another delicious meal for some lucky customer.































ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: One of the staff at Uncle George's Taverna relaxes for just a moment before going back to his duties.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: The Mother of Kostas Sakoulakis, Georgia, makes sure that all runs well in the kitchen of Uncle George's Taverna.
























ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: When night falls, guests and friends begin to gather at Uncle George's Taverna for an evening of delicious dining.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: The guests at Uncle George's Taverna enjoy a time of relaxation and great food.























ABOVE LEFT PHOTO: You can choose to dine under the roof or under the stars at Uncle George's Taverna.
ABOVE RIGHT PHOTO: Great food and fine wine, beer, or other drinks at Uncle George's Taverna are a fine way to end the evening.













LEFT PHOTO: The outside of Uncle George's Taverna in Amoudara.
RIGHT PHOTO: And lastly, Uncle George keeps a watchful and loving eye over his family and his taverna.