Saturday, July 29, 2017

"Is This the Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy?"


This week marks the twelfth year of publication of Mykonos Confidential, an annual summer magazine celebrating all things Mykonos.  All the glitz, all the hype, all the shopping, sipping, supping, seducing, and sunning for which the island is renown, wrapped up in one sleek, four-hundred page “Bible of Mykonos.”

Yes, it’s a cheerleading magazine for modern day Mykonos, but its publisher, Petros Bourovilis, has a long history of telling it like it is in his editorials, and encouraging his contributors to do the same.  This summer’s theme for the magazine is the island’s “Bohemian Past,” which necessarily involves reminiscences of a lifestyle far different from today.  How one evaluates the changes depends on your perspective.

I was asked for my thoughts on the subject, and so I gave them. 

In the interest of full transparency, I should mention that against a half-century of “old Mykonos hands” the magazine has kindly included me as one of “fifty-six people who symbolize the Mykonos Free Spirit.”

In keeping with that label, which I proudly wear, here is the article I wrote for this summer’s Mykonos Confidential issue, titled “Is Mercury or Mykonos in Retrograde?”

That title should give all you astronomers, astrologers, and music fans something to ponder. 

In astronomy retrograde means “a body in motion in a direction contrary to that of the general motion of similar bodies,” in astrology believers say you’d best “ready yourself for frustrating times,” and in music (at least for me) it conjures up visions of Queen’s incomparable Freddie Mercury shaking up the rock world with the eclectic punch of his 1975 classic song, Bohemian Rhapsody. All three offer unique insights into the state of our island.

Over the decades of this writer’s life, a once obscure and impoverished Mykonos transformed itself from wartime years of starvation and bitter struggle, into a modern international symbol of tourist hedonism and 24/7 glitz—barely pausing long enough to digest its good fortune and appreciate its natural gifts.  Yet, as quantum levels different as modern day Mykonos is from what it once was, first time visitors to the island, whether arriving by sea or air, still are awe-struck at their first glimpse of this dazzling white beauty set off against a stark desert mountain landscape.

Astronomically speaking, Mykonos adopted a trajectory retrograde to the orbits of its neighboring Aegean islands, fueled by an unwavering commitment to the benefits of unfettered development and entrepreneurial freedom.  Today, the results of the unquestioned economic success of Mykonos’s retrograde model has driven other islands to alter course, some to follow Mykonos’s lead, others to maintain a tighter fix on their cherished old ways.  As to which course is wiser, that depends on the goal, and what one is willing to endure to attain it.

A retrograde astronomical path

In terms of astrology, even non-believers have likely heard, “Mercury is in retrograde” tossed out as an explanation for why things are going very wrong, be it a business deal, politics, romance, or a broken lawnmower.  For sure, Mykonos has had its share of those moments (with the possible exception of the lawnmower), but just like Mercury, it manages to hang in there until things turn around—with one significant difference: Mercury always returns to the same orbit, Mykonos does not.  Where that might take our island, only time will tell. 

Astrologically speaking...

Now, on to the music.  Bohemian Rhapsody is regarded as one of the greatest rock songs ever, much the same as the rock known as Mykonos is considered in the tourist world. Many have analyzed the meaning of Freddie Mercury’s lyrics, but I tend to go with the description he offered as its composer: It is simply the story of a young man who accidentally kills someone and, like Faust, sells his soul to the devil, but on the eve of his execution calls out, “Bismillah” (“in the name of God” in Arabic) and with the help of angels regains his soul from Shaitan (“the devil” in Arabic).

I can only guess at the plethora of parallels observers of all things Mykonos will find in comparing that “simple” explanation of the meaning of a song with the state of their island.

Just to fuel the buzz, permit me to quote the opening and closing lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody. [For those interested in the entire experience, here’s a link to Queen’s official video performance.] 

I think most would agree that the first two lines capture the essence of modern day Mykonos:  

“Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?”

As for its final two lines, they’ll undoubtedly elicit more serious discussion over the state of our Island of the Winds:

“Nothing really matters to me.
Any way the wind blows.”

Thank you, Queen, for giving us all a lot to think about.



  1. The answer to the opening lines is, "Yes" to both. As for the last two lines... not just yet. But it's good to know how to properly address Your Royalness: The Word Whisperer.

  2. words of wisdom Jeffrey as always your spot on......

    1. Thanks, Lawerence, though in this case I wish I weren't.