Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fire, Earthquake, Pestilence.

Louiza Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images
The big story this week on Mykonos—even bigger than Steven Spielberg and Michelle Pfeiffer shopping in my friend’s store (btw, she’s a ‘goddess’ says the shopkeeper)­—was a brush fire sweeping across the hillsides surrounding the island’s most popular beach.  The likely cause was a tossed cigarette.  Further proof that smoking by a litterer is particularly dangerous for the environment.  Luckily sand doesn’t burn, no one was injured, and the fire did little more damage than singe a few hotel properties. 
Elia Beach

It did though cause a general evacuation of the hotels, and sun worshipers who preferred to roast themselves on a beach in a more natural manner raced off elsewhere.  The good news was that it gave Mykonians a chance to see one of their national government’s firefighting helicopters in action.  They’re usually off fighting the mainland fires that plague Greece each summer, disasters often of more serious consequences and suspicious origins. (The photo headlining this piece was from one of those other fires.)

But as far as our teeny-tiny Mykonos natural disaster was concerned, I’m pleased to say all is back to normal (to the extent anything is ever “normal” here during tourist season) and the ravaged land will begin to renew itself. 

As for the natural disaster that shook the East Coast of the United States this week (no, not DS-K—that was decidedly unnatural), how could that be?  I thought the deal was for the West Coast to endure the country’s major earthquakes in exchange for Easterners putting up with DC, epicenter for the nation’s most jarring shocks.

What has happened to order in the universe?

I checked, and that’s when I got the bad news.  Life on earth as we know it is about to end.  No, not in 2012—bank on that—but much sooner than the predicted 7.6 billion years from now when our planet falls into the sun (a day less if you calculate from when I wrote this). 

Yes, life has existed here for 3.7 billion years (originally as pond scum, which persists to this day in many forms), and we only have another billion left before the sun boils off the oceans and reduces our planet to cinder.  All of that information comes from astronomer Robert Smith of England’s University of Sussex.

I guess that puts the recent fire on Elia Beach into perspective and relieves me of obsessing over a question I’m sure will be asked up until the very last word vanishes from this earth:  At what price should I price my book on Kindle?

I’d rather talk politics or even DS-K than be drawn into that black hole topic.  Better yet, I think I’ll go to the beach and dream of St. Louis, Missouri on Thursday, September 15th  at 1 PM, when I’ll be participating with my Murder is Everywhere blogmates on a Bouchercon panel titled, “I Wish I Was the Moon—Landmark 4.”  And, I have no idea why it’s called that, unless perhaps it’s meant to be the earth calling out for help some 7.6 billion years from now.



  1. We, on the east coast of the US, are experiencing now and until early Monday morning, a hurricane. It came ashore in North Carolina early this morning as a Category 1, sparing Florida and South Carolina. As it moves north, it will lose some of the wind but it is expected to cross New York City as a category 1. This las happened in 1821 when it was a rather different city.

    Bloomberg has ordered mass transit to stop running as of noon today. Lower Manhattan has been evacuated. I did not know that, like the Back Bay of Boston, Manhattan is built on landfill. All business in most of Manhattan are closed and Broadway is dark. The goal is to make Times Square a ghost town.

    My daughter lives in Brooklyn so I am more than a bit worried about her although she is not in the evacuation zone. They seem to have paid attention to all the warnings and have taken the necessary precautions and made the necessary preparations.

    New England gets it as it moves off of New York and Long Island. The biggest concern for Long Island is the storm surge that bring water on to the land with a tide of over six feet. The storm is bigger than Europe and is carrying a huge amount of water so, even as a strong tropical storm, it is bringing a lot of damage to all of New England. Inland areas are going to get stronger winds than the coast.

    We can't complain too much. New England has escaped hurricanes for a long time; the last significant hurricane landed in 1991 but there is nothing exciting about them.

    I am very sorry that I will be missing Bouchercon. With all the Murder Is Everywhere people there, except Dan, it will be a great time for people who can get there.

    As to the earthquake, everyone should be so lucky. No one I know felt it. It did do some damage to the National Cathedral in DC, which is a pity since the damage was done to some of the hand-carved figures on the spires. Don't know how many people have the skills to fix it.

    Keep enjoying Mykonos, fires on the sand and all.

  2. Yes, Beth, there is no humor in what is confronting the East Coast at the moment. My daughter is supposed to be in transit from Long Island to Boston by car for a wedding. I hope she's already there or passed on the event. As for my farm west of the City...what will be will be.

    With all that's going on in the US, I'm beginning to think Dan may be prescient in not making it to Bouchercon, but we'll surely miss him...maybe even as much as we'll miss you.

    Just learned the first rain drops are falling on NYC. May God bless all in Irene's path.


  3. Tragically a fire chief was killed in a wild fire in the Peloponnese. So Mykonos was very lucky.

  4. Thank you for bringing that to my attention, Liz. I was in Gythio and Vathi last year, the scene of the fire that took the poor man's life. It is at the very southern tip of the Peloponnese in the area known as Mani, a place of powerful, courageous, and fiercely independent people who inspire many to say they are the direct remaining descendants of the ancient Spartans. What a terrible tragedy.


  5. It occurs to me that people go to Mykonos on vacation to forget about "reality." A fire would be a rude reminder. This has been a very difficult year for natural events. A reminder that with all the bellowing, and ranting, we are simply not in charge.To Beth, and you other Easterners, hope you weather the storm, and that your families are okay. Jeff, is it okay if I don't worry about the end of the world? I simply have too much on my plate ;)

  6. Smokers, of which I used to be one, owe the world a lot. And I'm sure they'd say they're likely to pay for it with a miserable death/heart attack/emphysema/the big C, but you know? That currency doesn't repay us. We're not going to rejoice in their misfortune, especially since it's possible to come to a wretched end without ever having smoked. So how do we get ours? How do you on Mykonos get reimbursed for brush fires, zillions of cigarette butts on the coastline, clouds of noxious fumes, etc.

    Smoker's Entrance Fee. Anyone with a pack of cigarettes on her, or tobacco on her breath, forks over $100 before being allowed off the boat. Half of that goes to a fire-fighting and beach-cleaning effort, and the other half is divided evenly among all the inhabitants of Mykonos.

    Naaah. Never fly.

  7. Frankly, Lil, I think you're being far too casual about the impending end of the world. I think in 750,000,000 years you better start some serious planning!

    Tim, your idea is brilliant. However, the concept of collected fines actually making it into the appropriate government coffers will take some getting used to on Mykonos. :)