In a third class overnight train from Mexico City to Mexicali, I met a woman who called herself a white witch and was gladly telling everyone’s fortunes. I didn’t want mine told because I’m superstitious enough to believe in fortune telling—my home is strewn with lucky charms—and that’s when she told me, a white witch never tells a bad fortune.
I could live with that and sat down, laid out my cards, let her hold my hand.
“You are going to receive a letter very soon,” she predicted, “that will take you away on a long journey for a long time, and in the course of that journey, you are going to meet a man with a beard who will change the rest of your life.”
A letter? A long journey? A man with a beard? Not a bad fortune, only a little hokey.
That was the summer of 1971.
My father had died a year earlier, and my mother, a skeptic of everything, had her arm twisted by a close friend into seeing a medium. The medium held her watch, and among predictions, she told my mother that I would receive a letter that would take me away on a long journey and during that journey I would meet a man with a beard who would change the rest of my life.
My mother had been too embarrassed to admit that she had been to a medium, even though six months later she was in Berkeley to say goodbye before I flew off to Greece for a job that had been offered by letter! Only when I told her about my white witch did she confess her medium, and the astounding thing was, we determined that we had been told my same fortune on the same afternoon.
I stayed in Greece over two years, and yes, during that time I met a man with a beard. I grew a beard, and in the riddled manner of a Delphic prophecy, I’ve interpreted my fortune to mean that I’m the man I met who changed the rest of my life.
That’s how profound those early years in Greece were for me and why I’ve remained so deeply connected to Greece; and why now, I’ve returned for a few days to start a new novel. Each novel is its own journey, but this is an especially important one because it’s the first time I’ve written about Greece.
I have forty years of stories and characters, and those are what I contemplate from my writing perch above a stormy sea worthy of an odyssey crashing against the shore. I feel all the excitement of embarking on the most important journey of my life—again.
I hope you’ll enjoy occasional updates from it.
I’ve been knocking out some quick character sketches and thought I’d share one. Keep scrolling below that, and you’ll see the man with a beard then and now.
an excerpt from Fire on the Island…
The sun dropped into the sea so fiery hot it could have boiled it. Kostas, putt-putt-putting along the rocky shore, was certain that it had. Every salty gust felt like the devil’s breath. Not even the splashes off the bow provided any relief as he wiped the sweat from his forehead with a red bandana. Usually by sunset he was back in the port sipping an ouzo and recounting his day, but that day his small party had been big-time rowdy, taking their long time drinking GTs and skinny dipping off Rabbit Island. He didn’t mind so much—the two girls had nice tops—but the seagulls, in their own mating season, soon had enough of the interruptis intruders, and dive bombing them drove them away. Not soon enough for Kostas, nice girl tops or not. He had a date and was still thirty minutes from port. Oh well, what could he do? She’d wait.
photo by Michael Honegger www.michaelhoneggerphotos.com