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Friday, July 7, 2017

(2) ONE SNAPSHOT COULD HAVE BEEN MY LAST,

April 4, 1972
Aboard Swissair 707
     We're not even off the ground yet, and already I'm off to a flying start, Dingbat style. Ed accompanied Floyd and me as far as the Swissair gate where we chose our seats and were given our boarding passes. Then he suggested I walk back with him to the lobby to say goodbye.
     When I rejoined Floyd, he said, "Do you have your boarding pass?" How did he know I didn't have my boarding pass? I can see how he would have noticed last September, fifteen minutes before boarding time, that I was missing a coat -- but a little green ticket? With Floyd's x-ray eyes, he could get a job in the security department, visually frisking potential highjackers.
     I thought I might have handed the pass to Ed out of habit, so I bolted for the door in hopes of catching him before he drove off. (As years go by, I may become a legendary figure at Logan Airport as I pursue my current missing object, dodging tourists and vaulting suitcases while my companion alternates his gaze between the clock and the heavens.)
     I dashed out to the parking lot. No sign of Ed. I gave up yelling his name because several fraudulent Eds, including two women, kept turning around and staring. Then I heard a familiar voice ask me what I was doing out there.
     "Looking for you and my boarding pass."
     Skeptically, he went through all his pockets and wallets, then insisted on investigating my pockets and purse. When his search was complete, the green ticket had not turned up, but my passport was missing. Ed's indignant disclaimers turned to surprise when he pulled it from his inside pocket.
     I had to get a special boarding pass from an official who grilled me concerning my whereabouts for the last twenty minutes -- had I been to the bar . . . the gift shop . . . the ladies' room?  Vowing I was not guilty of any such detours, I said the ticket had simply vanished between the boarding gate and the lobby. The chap shook his head. "Women! Give them a little lib and what do they do, they get dizzier than ever." He had a twinkle in his eye, so I didn't do anything militant like blacken it.
     After Ed got home he found my original boarding pass in his raincoat pocket. How do I know that?  After thirty-two years a woman just knows these things.
     It's now April 6th and we've been seeing Vienna for two days. I'll write more if Floyd ever lets me sit down long enough.
April 6, 1972
Vienna
To Ed
     Many, many thanks for making this trip possible for me. It was dear and generous of you, what with all your business problems. I hope your deal is still alive and well.
     We've been touring Vienna by aching foot, and now that Floyd has proved he's much younger than I, we're going to spend the rest of the week playing musical chairs.  Tickets to the opera tomorrow night (Macbeth), symphony Sunday at 4:00, Tristan & Isolde Sunday night. I'll be so cultured by the time I get home, you'll have to find a blue velvet box to keep me in. A pumpkin shell won't do, you understand.
     Your cultured pearl . . .
Intercontinental Hotel
Vienna
April 8, 1972
     This morning we had breakfast in the hotel's Brasserie-‑or brassiere, as my friend calls it.  It was crowded but not that crowded.  Then we parted company until noon.
     I spent the morning at the Prater, an amusement park, which is famous for having the world's biggest Ferris wheel.  It was the first time I had done any wandering around on my own, and it didn't take me long to get into trouble.  It occurred toward the end of the morning, when I was standing in the wrong station, waiting for a train which never came in the right direction.  I'm aware of what happens to girls who come from the wrong side of the tracks; the same thing happens to their mothers.
     I was approached by a black‑haired, widely smiling man who poured out a stream of strange syllables between the gaps in his teeth, took me by the arm, and indicated with a tilt of his head a nearby saloon.
     I retrieved my arm, smiled politely, and said, "No, thank you."
     More unintelligible importuning drowned the air, with an occasional familiar word bobbing to the surface.
     "Likker?" he grinned, gripping my elbow and pointing to the bar.
     "No," I said, shaking him off and moving a few paces to the left.
     He sidled up to me, stabbed himself with his forefinger, and said, "Me Turk."
     I put a few more paces between us.   He closed in again, still speaking in tongues, or perhaps Turkish.  I was conscious of bystanders watching our crabwise progress along the platform.  Now he put his arm around me and leered, "Meet oh‑tel?"
     Enough was enough.  I wouldn't meet him at a hotel if he was the last Ottoman on earth.  I turned my back, walked over to a delicatessen window, and stared at a salami for five minutes.   When I turned around again, my would‑be seducer had disappeared.
     I found the proper station and took the proper train back to the square near my hotel.  
     We took a taxi to Wachau, which is the most scenic part of the Danube.  We toured churches and castles and ended in Durstein, where we had a fine dinner at the Gottwieg Abbey.
April 11, 1972
Vienna
Postcard to Ed: We had dinner last night at Vienna's most superb restaurant. "The Three Hussars." Our leisurely meal, with wine and excellent service, took nearly three hours. The conversation never falters with Floyd, and I enjoy exchanging witticisms with him—or trying to. My best rejoinders occur to me at bedtime.  This morning we are leaving for Greece.
Haven't I been good about writing?
April 12
     We are now in Greece.  The Athens Hilton is like a city in itself.  You could spend a week learning your way to the shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Then there's the view from my bedroom:  the Acropolis looms on the horizon, while across the street an enormous Coca Cola sign reminds us what century we're in. Cruise Ship Galaxy
April 15, 1972
      Floyd, oh wise man of the West, arranged for me to take this cruise.   Up at 6:45 this morning for an excursion to Knossos by bus at 8:00.  At this early hour we are ahead of crowds who wander into one's viewing screen as one pushes the shutter button.  My Nikon is a splendid companion.   We share the sights that interest us most, and it lets me do all the. talking.   Usually this is under my breath:  "Go on, lady, move, will you?" or "Dammit, where is that filter?"
     Knossos didn't look like much until we came to the palace area.  Here we breathed the past and felt awed.  Although only an infinitesimal part remains of the "Labyrinth" of 1500 rooms, there was enough to feed the imagination and make us hunger for more.  We saw the king's throne, railed off to protect it from souvenir hunters; the underground drainage system, much like our modern pipes; and frescoes of girls in topless costumes and boys with long hair.  If the Minoans could be transported into our era, as we were into theirs, they would shrug and say, "What else is new?"
    This afternoon, a trip ashore to Santorini.  The town is situated at the top of a towering cliff which we reached by riding donkeys, some of them docile, some like mine.  On the steeply winding trail, mine kept veering toward the abyss on the right; then he would do his best to scrape me off on the wall to our left.  An ancient donkey‑ driver controlled the beast with a flick of his switch and a phrase that sounded like "Giddap."  I was tempted to say "Whoa, there," but having learned that no‑no‑no means yes‑yes‑yes in Greek, I didn't want to risk a misunderstanding.  I tried to snap pictures along the way, but he sensed when I wasn't hanging on with both hands and would pretend to stumble.  He may have fooled his driver, but he didn't fool me.
MY DONKEY, LOOKING INNOCENT.
April 13, 1972 
Athens
To Ed
     My first impression of Athens was Diesel fumes, and I wondered if my nose would stop tingling long enough for my eyes to start appreciating. Today I escaped from the belching busses and made my way through narrow, people-packed streets, gradually going uphill towards the Acropolis, which appeared from time to time between tenements.
     I spent three hours, exploring and taking pictures. One shot was very nearly my last. I had lined up a striking view of the Parthenon, with red and yellow wildflowers brightening the foreground. Two women taking pictures of each other beside a toppled pillar were blocking my shot. When they finally made their exit from my viewing screen, I saw that a new group of tourists was about to intrude.  By taking a couple of steps backwards, I was able to eliminate them. After snapping my masterpiece, I bent down to pick up my purse and sweater. Then I saw where I would have landed had I stepped back two more paces -- at the bottom of a pit at least thirty feet deep. Its edges surrounded by vegetation, it was not readily visible to your average nut walking backwards with her eyes glued to her camera.
     Travel continues to be as therapeutic as photography—many exciting events keep happening (with a spicy sprinkling of near-calamities). The Athens Hilton is like a city in itself; Floyd says it is one of the most elegant hotels in the world. He was pleased when the doorman recognized him and made a big fuss over "Dr. Rinker." He has a bad cold and has quarantined himself for the day, so I am about to collect my free, on-the-Hilton "ouzo" cocktail and dine in not-on-the Hilton lonely splendor. . . .

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