Saturday, August 5, 2023

Memories of the Good Old Days on Mykonos


Last week I posted an article I'd written for Mykonos Confidential Magazine offering my take on what's happening on Mykonos today. Since then, I've received requests for my reflections on how the island has changed since I first started going there.  Rather than reinventing the wheel––or attempting to retrieve admittedly hazy memories of those nearly 40 years past ribald halcyon days, I thought the most accurate way to present my recollections is through my contemporaneous jottings on that very subject as presented in the Summer 2015 issue of Mykonos Confidential

So, come join me in this journey back from the future. 

In early May, 2015 I was in Athens’ Venizelos International Airport waiting for a flight to Mykonos when I ran across an old friend, the late Petros Bourovilis.   He was the publisher of an annual summer magazine chronicling the past, present, and future of Mykonos. If it’s glitzy or serious, historical or questioning, spicy or fun, and runs to the heart of what makes Mykonos tick, there’s a good chance it’s made it into the stories, features, and photographs of Mykonos Confidential.

Gracious as he was, Petros asked if I was working on a new book.  I said yes, and he pointed out that I’d started writing my first book on Mykonos at about the same time as he started out with Mykonos Confidential. Then he said it’s been ten years for us both, and asked if I would like to write a piece for the magazine on how much the island had changed in a decade. 

I asked if I could write under an assumed name. We compromised on him picking the title. For those of you who may be interested here is my, “The Island of the Rising Sun” from the Summer 2015 issue of Mykonos Confidential:

We have entered a different world.  We no longer exist as we once did.  We are separate and apart.  We are imagination and fantasy, dreams and aspirations, a place in the sun unlike any other, fulfilling the great expectations of our planet’s buyers and sellers.

We are Mykonos ten years later.

I first came to Mykonos more than thirty years ago, and for the past ten have lived here longer each year than any other place on earth.  I’m not suggesting that shared decade entitles me to any credit or blame for what’s transpired, any more than does the tin (not a misspelling) anniversary of Mykonos Confidential charge my colleagues there. We’re just observers, each having chronicled in our own way events over those ten years that loom so dramatic in hindsight, but passed inconsequentially at the time—much as an unprotected beach slowly vanishes under the relentless pressure of gentle waves or the encroaching hands of determined appropriating man.  

Ten years ago I began work on the book that changed my life. I’d given up my position as a name partner in my own New York City law firm to live among my Mykoniate friends and write about the island’s people, culture and politics.  I titled that book Murder in Mykonos (Mystirio sti Mykono in Greek from Aikaterini Lalaouni Editions) having settled on a mystery format as the best vehicle for exploring how a tourist island society might respond to a threat to its newfound economic glory.
This was how I described old Mykonos town back then:

“Mykonos was famous for tantalizing tourists with brightly lit shops, colorful restaurants, roaring bars, and freewheeling dance clubs, but this still was a town where people raised families and shared strong traditions. Down the less traveled lanes, children played their games oblivious to the occasional tourists squeezing through their four-, five-, or maybe six-foot-wide playgrounds. Pairs of grandmothers, all in black, did duty watching the children. They’d sit on stoops in front of their houses or, if a shop occupied the street level, on brightly painted wooden balconies outside their second-floor homes; balconies with gates guarding pets, pots of geraniums, draping bougainvillea, and—if rented to tourists—clothes left to dry.”

I don’t think I could say that today, as every nook and cranny seems converted into a profit center.  Much the same is happening at the island’s beaches.  That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with that, for Mykonians have the right to decide their own fate.  Yes, admittedly I don’t agree with all that’s happened, but one thing I do agree with is that there is no place in Greece that’s done it with better style, taste, and appreciation of its past, as is reflected in the annals of Mykonos Confidential, a publication I’ve been honored to contribute to over those years.

One experience stands out in my mind. The world’s best photographer, Yiannis Dimotsis, was scouting for a place to take my photo for a story and settled upon a church next to the sea, but he wanted me up on the roof.  Artists.  So, there we are when a quintessential black clad ya-ya spots us up there and starts screaming at us to come down.

Unflappable Yianni smiled at her, “It’s okay keria, we’re from Mykonos Confidential.”

With that her shouting stopped, she nodded, and continued on her way.

Another fan of Mykonos Confidential.  Just like me.

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