Blacksmithing and Greek language, two ambitions placed in my path by the trickster god of transitions, two ambitions that strengthened my arms and tongue and confidence that looking backward was not my future, were both important deviations. There had been no plan or map but both of these deviations helped ensure that my path would not be too straight or narrow. A couple years later I was preparing for another deviation. On September 23, 1983 I would get on an airplane and make another pilgrimage to Vourthonia.
With a new job starting a few weeks later, I had decided quickly to travel. Just shy of my 21st birthday I had only the slightest clue who Guy Savoy was, or what Michelin stars might mean to my future, but my friend Jean Michel’s new job as Sommelier & Maitre d’ in the Connecticut restaurant of this Paris-based chef somehow meant that I was to become the only non-French employee at Restaurant Guy Savoy, a short walk from my home.
Jean Michel had already taught me the fundamentals of table service and pairing wine with food, a trade that would strengthen my social self; by bringing me with him to Guy Savoy he would strengthen my appreciation of food’s role as cultural heritage and sometimes high art; he was another avatar.
So, in the long check-in line at the airport I was in the right frame of mind. I was going somewhere with a vague sense of purpose. When the person next to me asked what I was going to do in Greece, I mentioned visiting my family in Athens and visiting my mother’s village in the southern mountains. Small talk in a slow-moving crowd. During the flight, after the captain announced that due to delays we would arrive Athens at 3:00am local time, that same person from the line found me.
“Are there taxis in the middle of the night at Athens airport?”
When I woke up this morning, it occurred to me that I still do not know the answer to that question, but I am sure glad she asked it.