Written in 2002 on Wednesday the 30th of October, three-months into a three-month stint in Europe.
In a room of sixteen beds, nine were occupied by Melburnians. And in my own room of six beds, I was one of four Aussies. I had travelled to the other side of the world and I could still complain about how boring Powderfinger and Something For Kate are, marvel at the resurgence of Shane Warne and watch people munch on Vegemite smeared on toast. Throngs of people were dancing to Kylie and Savage Garden in the clubs, dumb-arse tourists were pashing all over the place, and I had embarked on a club crawl searching for Madonna tunes with some Norwegians. I was staying at the pick-up joint otherwise known as the Hostel Kabul in Barcelona. It did not feel like Afghanistan, nor did it feel like Spain. It was the first time since London that I had spoken so much English and it seemed like the cleaners were the only authentic Spaniards I was going to meet. All I needed was some bland tourist-friendly Latin sounds that the sex bomb Ricky Martin so ably provides in spades, but Eminem was whining on the speakers instead. Thankfully, the sangria was cheap.
I am in my third and final month of travelling, and I wish to dub the tail end of my European escapades: The Search For Ricky Martin (Who Is To Be Found Preferably In Some Naff Club Here In Spain). The pain of not being near Ricky started on the island of Naxos about a month ago. The flyer said it was Latin night on Wednesday at the club down the road. The thought of a night dancing to the holy Latin trinity of Ricky, Jennifer and Shakira was inducing wildly uncontrollable hip shaking, and it was only Monday. Two days of weird and wild adventures in the bathroom was the result, but no matter for it was now the promised night of Wednesday, and I was making my way to the promised land to perform holy communion with the Gods of Latin rhythm and drink from the Cup of Life, Olé Olé Olé. I opened the pearly gates to what I thought was the entrance to heaven only to see before me the profane image of a dancefloor full of middle-aged women tightly dressed in barbaric white, dancing in formation to the macarena whilst gyrating their hips arhythmically, adding further salacious, lust-inducing fuel to the hellfire that was surely to engulf the room at any moment. I felt as if I had lain eyes on the God-forsaken land of Sodom, only to find Gomorrah magically appear when the devil in the guise of Lou Bega and Mambo Number 5 was heard inducing unashamedly sinful bodily contortions amongst the throngs on the dancefloor only a few moments later. Such immoral sights I could not bear any longer, and I had to walk back to the hotel dejectedly bemoaning yet another night without Jennifer, Shakira and, most importantly, Ricky. And so on that otherwise anonymous Wednesday night, my search for Ricky and the deities of Latin pop began…
More religious adventures were expected on the island my mother comes from, Kephallonia, when I went in search of Saint Gerasimos. His mummified corpse is kept in the monastery/church/holy set of buildings that bear his name, where he apparently continues to perform miracles for the masses that come to kneel before his highly-revered dead body. My mother baptised me at this church, taking me all the way to Greece with the rest of my family when I was five-months old, hoping that somehow I was to be looked after by Saint Gerry (I can call him that because we are on good terms, for I have been bathed naked before his well-decayed corpse.) So I decided to return to this church, check out the cave that lies underneath that he would retreat to of a night in his earthly years, and see how he was holding up these days.
Surprisingly, Saint Gerry still pulls a crowd. Another three people had come to pray to the man, such is his divine repute. A service was held at one o’clock and Gerry’s corpse was unsheathed. Rather comically in the middle of the service, my head decided to violently hit the lamp that was hung from the roof, which in my humble opinion was hung far too low for the general safety of the church-going public. The lamp swung wildly before I managed to calm it with my outstretched hands, which thankfully were not shaking convulsively from the laughter I was trying so desperately to hold back so as not to further disrupt the solemnity of the occasion.
Before the service took place, I had offered to take with me to the next town in the car I had hired a lady who had come to pray. I was a little worried about the topics of conversation after seeing her perform her prayers in front of Saint Gerry on her knees, but I was glad to take her with me, especially once I noticed her limp. She was going to the very first cave on the island that the patron saint of Kephallonia had retreated to, and seeing as Gerry is meant to be looking over me, I figured it would be worth my while to check it out as well.
After a few minutes of polite conversation driving along in the car, she shocked me by revealing the cause of her limp when removing her prosthetic lower right leg. She told me of the troubles she was having with her artificial leg, how it annoyed her, and how she hoped for a new and improved version. Her mother was also troubled, suffering from a sickness I could not decipher in Greek, and for both of these reasons, she was on a pilgrimage to Kephallonia to seek assistance from the divine Saint Gerasimos, who is said to perform miracles for those of pure heart who pray to him. After a drive along a very narrow road, we reached Gerry´s first cave that I inspected with the religious fervour of a disinterested secular tourist. My new-found friend on the other hand was on her knees devoutly praying, which I had initially interpreted as a problem with her prosthetic leg and thus asked her if she required any assistance. After that embarrassing interlude, I lighted a few candles and made a few perfunctory crosses to keep up appearances before whispering to my friend that I was to leave. She whispered her thanks in return, issued a fond farewell and stated in the process that she was going to stay longer to pray. And with that, I left her in the cave of Saint Gerasimos, solemnly praying on her knees for better days to come. I said a prayer to my own secular gods of luck and circumstance for her upon leaving, finding it a little ironic that the heathen religion of science that has done so much to destroy the foundation of people’s faith in Christ is her only real hope for eventual salvation and deliverance. Nonetheless, I could not help but be impressed by her fervour and sheer devotion to something intangible.
And in Kephallonia I visited my mother’s village, Tsakarisiano, to see the place she grew up in. The village could easily double as an open-air geriatric ward in a land the world has forgotten. Nonetheless, in this bizarre place where literally nothing happens, of the eleven people I met, most of whom simply asked who I was upon seeing an unfamiliar face in town, seven of them were relations of mine. I simply bumped into people, told them my basic family tree and it was discovered that they were related to me. For years I had been ridiculing the incestuous sexual practices of people from country towns only to discover at the age of twenty three, I had been ridiculing myself all along. Is this irony?
But it has been almost two weeks in Spain and still no Ricky. Furthermore, after over two months travelling, not a single Prince fan nor anyone who has even heard of Tom Waits have I found, but many, oh-so-very-many Bon Jovi worshippers abound. I did meet, however, someone who does not like Dali. She was from Canada and she was not interested in Dali because apparently she really understands dreams, so when faced with a Dali piece, they seemed mundane to her. But more importantly, I leave Europe on November 13 and I have only fifteen more days to find Ricky.
Wish me luck.