Saturday, July 15, 2023

On the Many Joys of Finding New Friends




Decades ago, before I was writing mysteries for a living, I served time as a practicing lawyer. A highly successful colleague remarked to me one day that the practice of law gave him the chance to be deeply involved in the lives of clients without having to make friends with them. His precise words were, “I have enough friends and don’t need any more.”


What a sad and limiting outlook. 


From my perspective, making new friends enriches your life in unimaginable ways. If you meet people whom you instinctively like and spend time getting to know them, I’m always amazed at the things you learn when they open up about their lives…and what you learn about yourself in the process.  In other words, my dance card is never so full as to miss out on making a new friend.


What brought all of this to mind was a week Barbara and I spent this month on the Cycladic Greek island of Naxos.  Five years ago, we barely knew the island or anyone on it.  But when Barbara said she wanted to celebrate her birthday there, flexible me said, “Sure, whatever you say, darling.”


Through hotelier friends on Mykonos, we found the glorious Grotta Hotel.  Nestled atop a rugged seaside cliff, it offers in one direction a majestic seaside view of the old town of Naxos, in another the massive symbol of Naxos–the 2500-year-old Portara marble gate to an unfinished temple to Apollo––and each morning the best breakfast buffet in all of Greece.   


We couldn’t have been happier, but soon became precisely that when we met Nikoletta-of-the-irresistible-smile.  A powerhouse host who spares nothing to accommodate guests of her family-owned hotel, we bonded at once. So much so, that today Barbara and she are as sisters…and I get to play the crazy uncle to her perspicacious son, Spyros.


As if the hotel didn’t present enough to keep Nikoletta busy, she is also the moving force behind the Eggares Olive Press. Set amid the verdant, olive-growing farming village of Eggares, it’s been in Nikoletta’s family for at least five generations. Newly restored as a museum, shop, and cafe, it serves as a draw for families, where visitors learn the storied history of the Greek olive, have access to the sorts of products in which the olive plays a prominent role, and get to taste the results of some of its many culinary uses.


But that was only one of the serendipitous deep friendships that came out of our first journey to Naxos.


I’d happened to mention on Facebook that we were off to visit Naxos, and a fan wrote to me recommending that I stop by an art gallery in a village about a half hour from Naxos town. Her son was a friend of the owners, and she thought I’d like to meet them.


With no fixed itinerary, and the deep green valleys and marble mountains of the Cyclades largest island calling out to us for exploration, we thought, “yiati oxi” [why not?].  So, there we were, off to the heart of the island in search of a sleepy village’s dirt paths lined with oleander, jasmine, bougainvillea, fig, and honeysuckle, all set amid ancient olive groves, Byzantine stone churches, and classically restored structures.  


It was in this village of Halki that we discovered Fish & Olive Gallery and met its owners and creators, ceramist Katharina Bolesch and artist-sculptor Alexander Reichardt.


Their gallery has been an integral part of Halki for more than twenty years, and they are widely credited with bringing to this once crumbling former capital of Naxos the vigor, energy, and skill that launched a renaissance propelling Halki into what is now considered one of the island’s most charming locales and a must-visit destination for those interested in the arts.


The world class caliber of Katharina and Alex’s work is attested to by the long list of distinguished clients, patrons, honors, exhibitors, and foundations that proudly support them and their Gallery. At the opening of the Gallery, Mrs. Niki Goulandris, President of the Goulandris Natural History Museum, and the European Woman of the Year 1991, had this to say about our friends: “The partnership of the couple Katharina Bolesch and Alexander Reichardt in Naxos, the opening of their workshop [Fish & Olive Gallery] at Halki, represents boldness and commitment to tradition as well as to each other. Pottery in Naxos in the context of Cycladic art has had a long history. As a foreigner, to dare to carry on a tradition that had gone on for centuries demanded Katharina’s in-depth knowledge of ceramic art and the inspiration and sparkle of Alexander.”    


But their work goes on, and each time I see Katharina and Alex, they surprise me with some new major project underway.  This time was no exception.  They are deeply committed environmentalists, who look to the sea and earth for inspiration in their work and repay their gods-given talents by collaborating with like-minded souls such as the Cousteau family in advocating for bettering our world. 


Later this month, Fish & Olive Gallery will pay honor to the Tara Ocean Foundation––“the first foundation in France to be recognized as promoting the public interest dedicated to the ocean”––founded by Agnès Trouble (aka “agnes b.) and chaired by Etienne Bourgois by hosting the TARA Ocean project exhibition.


Barbara and I are honored to call Nikoletta, Katharina, and Alex dearest friends.


And I’m ever so happy that I never listened to my badly misdirected one-time colleague. 




  1. A wonderful adventure, Jeff. And I'm sure you will continue to make new friends!

    1. It has been, Michael, and our good fortune at counting you as a wonderful friend spurs me on to ever more adventures. -- Jeff

  2. As well you didn't listen to your old colleague. I'm sure you've heard that you can't trust a lawyer...

    1. I'm happy I didn't too, EvKa, and as for the business of not trusting a lawyer, if you're asking me to answer your inquiry, I'll of course have to charge you for my time. :) -- Jeff

  3. What glorious photos!!!

  4. This is a beautiful piece. But I think you have the kind of open personalities that make making friends easier.

    1. Thanks, Ovidia. That's an interesting observation you have on our personalities. I never thought of us as having particularly open personalities--non-judgmental yes-- but then again, I suspect we're not the best judges of how we're perceived. --Jeff