We Can Be Gyros Just for a Day
On last month’s equinox I was traveling with a friend of mine through the Aegean Sea. Over the 16-hour boat ride we passed hundreds of small islands on our way to a magical cluster of the Greek Isles called the Kiklades. They are all arid and pseudo desert-like and covered in small shrubs, olive and pomegranate trees, electric pink flowers, and lots of rocks. They are basically just huge rocks, and some are made entirely of white marble, broken off in the sea. Some are completely uninhabited, with nothing more than the remnants of an ancient wall dividing the agricultural plots (although what they grew in sheer rock face is beyond me), or sometimes small clusters of white villas accented with blue and a bright pink flower or butterfly. Until recently there was actually a Greek law that said you could only paint your beautiful plaster home white and blue. Good call. The preservation of good aesthetic quality is A-OK in my book.
We were two women traveling in a large boat all to ourselves. I had never been out to sea like that before, so I have nothing to compare it to, but judging from the way the waves rocked us violently back and forth at times, I guess it wasn’t a terribly large boat. The romantic, introspective thoughts I was conjuring about the vastness of the ocean and space were kind of overshadowed toward the end of the seven-hour sail when the rocking turned from soothing and romantic to barfy-ill-making. I tried lying on my stomach with one foot on the ground like I do when I get the booze spins, but these were actual waves and real spins, so that didn’t do shit. Even though the trip was only seven hours, I was sick for two days. But it didn’t matter because I was in paradise.
The Kiklades are like a beautiful, more old Palm Springs. That night on Paros Island I had more stoned thoughts about the stars—like how crazy it is to see the same constellation halfway around the world, and how most of the constellations were probably named after the graceful or ruthless old gods here in Greece thousands of years ago. The big dipper has to be an American invention. Who else would name something as mystical and awe-inspiring as the stars after a gravy boat?
The next morning I awoke thinking about how I wanted to bash the shit out of an octopus. I had heard that this is what you do to them. All the old ladies gather at the docks and grab them off the boats, plucked straight from their gardens in the sea. And then they beat the daylights out of them because they are tough and must be tenderized. At any given port the tavernas hang the bashed octopi from hooks along the verandas by way of advertising their fresh offerings, and also to take some of the moisture out of the watery, pulpy tentacles. First though, because naturally I was drinking a lot the night before and communing with Achilles and Zeus and whatnot, what I really needed was a gyro, drenched in tatziki and raw onions, pork souvlaki, and crammed into a hot pita with french fries sprinkled on top for good measure. And beer.
At every meal after that we ate fried cheese (saganaki) and multiple kinds of sea creatures. There is also ouzo. LOTS of ouzo, which makes sense here. It goes with all the white marble, I think. There is a minerality to it, and when you lick the sea salt off your fingers and take a sip it is like having a salted licorice.