Opinion: Musings from the Coast

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Saint Marina

Dateline: Amaliapolis, Greece. 

Amaliapolis is a village within the Pagasetic Gulf on the east coast of Greece. The Gulf is giant, roughly round and some 26 miles across, the same distance as from Laguna to Catalina Island. In earlier days, the Gulf was a main point of commerce (fishing, olives), trade (from all over the Mediterranean) and military (defense, raiding). Athens is a four-hour drive and probably a day’s sail. 

Kim Bowen and I are staying here for two weeks in a waterside villa a five-minute walk from the village. 

There are military flights almost every day screaming, rumbling or roaring overhead. The locals have been told they are NATO training flights, but there are too many, and Ukraine is a 90-minute military flight away. 

Our villa has fantastic views, a gentle breeze, a staff of five (never had that before) and the water is a perfect 75 degrees. We picked this villa because we celebrated our 14th year together two Saturdays ago, and the villa is big enough to accommodate the 25 family members and friends who celebrated with us. 

It was a joyous occasion, and there was the usual ceremony, dinner, drink, toasts and a band that played Greek music. Most of our guests are staying for at least a week to enjoy the place. 

At the villa, there are kayaks and a tiny sailboat. I love the sailboat, and my friend Jandres and son Harrison learned rudimentary sailing on it. Jandres flipped it a couple of times before catching on. Harrison was a natural, and he took his oldest daughter, Elizabeth, on her first cruise.  

My middle adult child, daughter Gabby, is here too. She is with her new husband, Mike Norquest. Three weeks ago, they married in a no-ceremony wedding and are now on their honeymoon (may they reproduce soon).

About a half-mile in front of us is an island roughly a quarter-mile wide and a mile long. For centuries, immigrants entered Greece by first quarantining 40 days on the island to prove they were disease-free (like Ellis Island in New York). It had a full-time population of about 300 to service the arrivals and a Greek Orthodox church dating to the thirteenth century. Today, the church is out of service due to a lack of patrons—except for the annual anniversary of Saint Marina, its patron saint. 

That day was yesterday, and we attended.

We boated across to the church about 9:30 a.m. About 300 locals were there (no tourists except us), dressed surprisingly in summer casual and of all ages. Young children and toddlers dashed about, even in front of the priest during the service.

The church is tiny, maybe as big as an average living room, and full of Christian symbols. It is not big enough for pews, so the service was outside. The priest and a cantor sang beautifully. They were dressed in traditional Greek Orthodox fashion, and the priest was tall, perhaps 55, and had amazing blue eyes and a huge smile so full of joy. I was drawn in and even felt religious.  

Military jets roared overhead during the service, and the priest paused as each sortie passed. In the meantime, I read Florida water temperatures had hit the high 90s; our Presidential campaign is defined by one of our major parties demonizing any minority group they can find or create; in Laguna, a similarly-acting political group continues demonizing our city manager; and our city council is paralyzed. 

I feel embarrassed for us all. How petty. How small.

How unworthy. 

Michael is a Laguna Beach resident and principal officer emeritus of Laguna Forward PAC.

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