Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Day At The Beach

Pablo Picasso

Paul Cezanne
This is an absolutely true story.  Which means that this post will be a bit bare on photographs—so to speak—for it’s about THAT kind of beach.  One of those for which Mykonos is (in)famous: a babel of spoken languages amid a potpourri of utterly un-bespoken sun worshippers.   Yes, that’s a horribly incorrect use of the adjective “bespoke” but I’m desperately grasping for subtle humor here.
Paranga Beach

John Singer Sargent
Now, I have nothing against nudism.  Have done it myself many times.  I just prefer it these days in the privacy of my own bathtub.  Something a lot of others might like to consider for the sake of us all.  But, hey, this is Mykonos and on its beaches clothing is largely optional and beachgoers know (or soon learn) that when you head to the water if you go to the right you’ll likely find nude bathers (got that: to the right).  That also happens to be where you’re most likely to be farthest away from the blasting music of the beach tavernas.

So, yesterday, my girlfriend and I decided to destroy our skin for a few hours on Paranga (aka Paraga), a lovely, sophisticated beach with great beach tavernas.  As is my nature I headed to the right, away from the music and umbrellas.

I’ve been coming to Mykonos for decades, which means I know most of the regulars.  On this beach I was sure to know someone and vice versa.  I glanced around but didn’t see anyone I knew.  Still, I wasn’t about to take my suit off in such a very public spot.  We found our patch of open sand and put down our towels, but kept on our suits.

“Jeffrey this is a nude beach, take off your suit.”

Pierre Auguste Renoir
I looked over at a couple on the towel nearest to us and there lay two longtime friends of mine from Germany.  Then more German friends from other nearby towels yelled out similar sorts of greetings.  I hadn’t noticed any of them; it was as if they were invisible.

I said, “Sorry folks, I want to be recognized.”  We all had a laugh and went about our business of expediting the aging process.

I don’t know how other writers are when they get to a beach, but when I’m in the midst of writing a book (I can hear the cursing now from my colleagues, “BEACH, who has time for the BEACH”), if I lay in the sun my mind is always running to ideas.  That’s why I keep a notebook handy to jot down those brilliant thoughts that later prove more to be evidence of sunstroke.

Paul Gauguin
So, there I was doing my thing, lying down, jumping up to grab my notebook to scribble, and then back to baking until the next idea hit.  After about an hour of this my very patient and understanding girlfriend decided to take off for a swim.  She didn’t even bother to ask if I wanted to come along because she knew my notebook wasn’t waterproof.  Besides, without a wetsuit no way I’d be going in the water this early in the season.

Georges Seurat
But I did lean on my elbow to keep an eye on her because she liked to swim out pretty far from shore.  At one point I realized that I was wearing my sunglasses so some of the folk in my line of vision might be thinking I was staring at their bodies, a definite no-no on a nude beach.  Especially if you’re not sans suit.  I took off my glasses so they could see my naked eyes.

A moment later a woman appeared in my peripheral vision.  I turned to see who she was.  No, she wasn’t Ursula Andress coming out of the water in Doctor No, but she did get my attention.  Especially when she walked right up and stood in front of me (au naturel).

“Excuse me,” she said.

Her English had a decided German accent so for some unfathomable reason I responded with practically the full extent of my German vocabulary.  “Ja?

Big mistake, for she abandoned her English and was off and running in her native tongue, leaving me to “Ich verstehe Sie nicht, I don’t understand.”

My neighbor on the nearby towel started to laugh, “Jeffrey, she wants an autograph,” and then said something in German to the woman who smiled, knelt down (on my girlfriend’s towel) and handed me a copy of the German-language version of Murder in Mykonos, titled Opfergaben in German.

I’m at a loss as to how I never noticed my book in her hand before that moment.

I took the book and reached for my pen.  It was the very first copy of Opfergaben I’d ever autographed for a fan in person, and the very first of any book I’d ever autographed for a naked fan.  This was a significant moment, so I wanted to take my time composing my thoughts.  She kept smiling and I, being raised as a gentleman, of course kept smiling back.

Suddenly, a new vision appeared in my sight.  For some reason my girlfriend had decided to come out of the water and return to her towel.

My friend on the next towel—who has a hell of a sense of humor—said, “Shall I make the introductions?”

I said, “Not necessary.”  I turned to my girlfriend and said, “Can you believe that this lovely woman just came over here to ask me to autograph her copy of Opfergaben?  What an honor that is for me.” 

“She’s on my towel.”

Ahh, how we must suffer for our craft, at times enduring misunderstandings by those we love the most.  Yep, if you haven’t picked up on it yet, I’m still groveling. 



  1. Jeff, I thought everyone's birthday suit was bespoke by the master tailor. Of course, even the best material does get worn over time.

    "I’m at a loss as to how I never noticed my book in her hand before that moment."

    Who are you trying to convince - the readers of this blog or your girlfriend? I think you failed on both parts.

    I never go to the beach. If I am in the sun for long, I faint. Talk about ruining a beautiful day for everyone in the vicinity. It is a very good excuse for never getting into a bathing suit, talking about ruining the day for everyone else.


  2. Love the pictures, especially the little girl. I'm still admiring your ability to suffer all that scenery.

  3. As witness to the event, I must say that writers and fishermen have a lot in common!

  4. OK, Beth, you have me. Hart Schaffner and Marx Brothers must have been your tailor because you're nonpareil, and suit everyone. Thank you Annamaria and Lil for inspiring me to write more pieces like this, and B for warning me what will happen if I do:).


  5. I thought nonpareils were chocolate candies with little white dots on the top?

    "Suit everyone"? Hart Schaffner and Marx Brothers? They will sue you for your irreverence.

    No need to tell you to enjoy Mykonos.


  6. Yes, and they're among my favorite sweet things in the whole world. Though not quite as much as you are.

    Wonder what "the other B" will say to that.


  7. Hilarious!! Here's hoping the rest of your vacation is as exciting!

  8. Hahaha... Funny! But seriously, Jeff -- to go to the nude part of the beach and not take off your clothes?! I don't know if I should pity you for your self conciousness at this stage in life (I find I'm less bothered by my deteriorating shell as time goes by, even as said deterioration progresses... Just don't have time for that BS anymore) or if I should scold you for the obvious faux-pas. Still, great story :-)

  9. Annika, you missed the point. I didn't want to make everyone else self-conscious.:)