Thursday, September 23, 1999

The Aegean Sea

4:30 AM. As I write this I'm sitting at the very back of the ship in a deck chair with my feet on the railing. I'm as close to the water as you can get. the moon is behind me; it's turned a milky vanilla color as it sulks behind the island of Crete. I can't see much beyond the ship lights yet. The propeller that hurls us forward leaves a wake of white foam that feeds out into the darkness. I wish we were going the other way so I could see the sun rise from here. (The other side of the ship is extremely windy--here I am protected by canvases stretched strategically pver the side rails.) I have a walkman with me and I'm scanning local stations. Most radio Greek music sounds similar to Latin music--subtract the trumpets and add a dash of Middle Eastern flavor. I can smell breakfast cooking in the galley behind me in preparation for the 6:00 am buffet. We are due to arrive in Crete in two and a half hours. Bacon smells waft from the galley. In the distance faint lights stretch out in a thin line on the Southern horizon. My finger slides over the radio dial and suddenly I'm hearing Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads. My solitude is violated by noisy cleaning crew members running around, straightening deck chairs. Time to relocate . . .

We are approaching Crete, the home of King Minos and his great palace of Knossos. I read about this place as a child, and I'm thrilled be be seeing it now. From what I've read, there's no way Theseus could have come from Athens to see King Minos. The Greeks didn't even exist yet as a people during the heyday of Minos. I can't remember the dates for Knossos right now but I want to say about 2,500 B.C. That predates the Trojan War by more than a thousand years. The lights of Heraklion burn brighter and more distinctly. Soon the lights grow into buildings and ships, distinguishable only by the outline of their lights. Breakfast time. I chatted with some of the women and talked excitedly about going to Knossos. I mentioned Theseus, Aegeas, Ariadne, and Minos. "My," she said condescendingly. "You obviously remember the names." I took that to mean she tought I was showing off. When the time came to disembark I was first on the bus.