My Friend Yiorgos

March 26, 2012

It’s 3PM on a Thursday and I’m on a boat somewhere on the west coast with a middle-aged Greek man. Jeremy’s becoming increasingly worried but meanwhile I’m having the best shrimp of my life.

But let me back up a little bit.

WelcometoLongBeach

Water

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This story starts with Jeremy needing to take a business trip to Long Beach, California and me asking to tag along. I’m craving a change of scenery and can work from anywhere. It’s a Thursday morning when we part ways – Jeremy and his coworkers off to his all-day meeting and me to my office-away-from-home-office: Starbucks (it’s not local, I know, but it’s reliable). I walk about a quarter mile along a very busy street – past palm trees and oil rigs to the closest Starbucks. I order a grande Pike with room for cream and an oatmeal.

This story starts like any mundane non-event at a coffee shop. I settle in at a table and pull out my laptop only to find it completely dead. I scan the room for a place to plug in – there is a spot on a couch next to a man who looks like someone The Sartorialist would photograph reading a paper. He’s middle-aged with a bit of scruff and tanned skin – a sherling woodsmen cap with the ears turned up, a Hawaiian shirt with a black windbreaker, khakis and boat shoes. He meets me with a smile and offers to plug my computer in to the plug closest to him. I take a spot on the couch and as my laptop struggles to get enough juice to turn on we chat. It’s clear he’s not from here and it’s clear that I’m not from there. I ask where he’s from – he says Greece. His name is Yiorgos and he’s been in Long Beach for over a decade now.

So now my computer has enough charge to check my email and launch Photoshop. And at this point some construction workers start tearing down the Starbucks wall with a jack hammer. It’s loud and I can’t recall exactly how the conversation went down but Yiorgos offers to take me to a quieter place. I ask him if he’s going to kidnap me and he says no. I check in with my gut and my gut says today is not the day I’m going to be murdered by a serial killer. So I follow Yiorgos to a marina behind Starbucks and step into a little boat – a dingy – he has tied to the dock.

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DingyWater

Yiorgos

Yiorgos gives me a tour around the marina and I continue to check in with my gut. I think about that thing Oprah taught me when I was 8 – you know the one – about never letting someone take you to a second location. Because at a second location you’re dead meat. But the sky was really beautiful and the water was the perfect shade of blue and Yiorgos is telling me stories about boats and Greek politics. I never feel scared because I’m too distracted by the combination of hot sun with cool wind on my face.

Naples

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We coast along the Rivo Alto Canal and I’m enjoying having a personal tour guide through the island of Naples. We laugh at the names of boats and laugh at the irony of all the people having to work on such a beautiful day to afford said (empty) boats. Meanwhile, we’re on a dingy enjoying the day. As Yiorgos kept reminding me “You can always work tomorrow.”

It’s 11AM and we decide to dock and have a microbrew in a restaurant with a view of the ocean. Jeremy texts asking if I want to join him and his coworkers for lunch. This is when I reply “I’m on an island with my new Greek friend having a beer.” He replies with a light hearted joke about not getting murdered and to have fun.

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KathleenIPA

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We spend a couple hours over a large pint of IPA and just when I start to think about ordering food Yiorgos insists I go back to his boat so he can grill up some shrimp and salmon to eat. I check in with my gut: Second location, Kathleen. Second location! But this day is turning out to be something straight out of a Sofia Coppola movie and I can’t say no.

We go back to Yiorgos’ boat – I settle in on the deck of the boat with my laptop and check my email and prep a few files for printing while Yiorgos gets the grill going. I continue to text Jeremy so he knows I’m safe while at the same time making plans to meet up with my friend Rory who is headed down from LA to spend some time with me.

Lunchtime

Dinner

Veggies

Grill

All of a sudden there are fresh veggies on cutting boards and Yiorgos is marinating and adding spice to the shrimp and salmon. The man clearly knows his way around making a superior meal from simple ingredients. By this time I’ve stopped making escape plans justincase and am enjoying the moment. By this time I’m falling in love – not with Yiorgos – but with the day. A day that started out like any other day. A day that was supposed to be quiet and perhaps even lonely. I was falling in love with who I was that day – someone who would get on a boat with a stranger new friend just to have a story to tell. “What a day…” I kept telling myself. I mean, nothing particularly exciting or scary or brave or adventurous went down – but it was a day I’ll never ever forget.

KathleenWindRoryGordon

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Last two images by Rory Gordon. See where her side of the story picks up, from her point of view, here.

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