About last month’s voyage, for better or for worse, the three previous bite-sized posts will have led you here.
In 1969, at the end of the fifteenth month of my eighteen-month military assignment at Iraklion Air Station on Crete, my father died unexpectedly at age forty-eight. I got the news at the movie theatre on the airbase there, where I had taken, mostly out of curiosity, an off-duty part-time job as a projectionist. Arrangements were made to pad the remaining three months of my tour on Crete onto my next assignment back in the US, and I was gone from the island within thirty-six hours, utterly bereft.
Iraklion Air Station, a communications intercept site (established sixty years ago this very month), was decommissioned in 1993, as technology had finally bypassed its mission. The real-estate and buildings were subsequently turned over to the local Greek government with full ceremony in 1994. Thereafter, the whole facility went from dormant to completely vandalized in a matter of years — fixtures ripped out or smashed, graffiti throughout, not an unbroken window in sight. Though some of the buildings are now slowly being reclaimed, it is for the most part an overgrown, post-apocalyptic ghost town.
On two trips to the base last month, one with Stephen and one without, I wandered around and around soaking up the space. Never a large military installation, the grounds nevertheless seemed to have shrunk, and some of the buildings were in the ‘wrong’ place, but overall, it was more familiar than I had imagined it would be. The upside of its being a ruin was that it presented itself like a dream that I could slowly sort out.
And thankfully, I think I did ‘sort’ most of it.
May I tell you something? Though I tried to make it a point to keep ritual to a minimum during my return there after forty-five years, I did need some. When I returned alone the second and final time to the lobby of that devastated movie theatre, on an impulse I put my hands over my ears, closed my eyes very tightly, and stood there for some while. I don’t know what I imagined I was doing.
It seems obvious to write that the germ of the idea for Stephen and me to have chosen Crete as a destination was my need to go back to get some closure. Lucky that the place is breathtakingly beautiful, with no reason to argue not going there;-) When we go back to Crete again, as we plan to do, Stephen, who is neither a particularly sentimental nor melancholy person, has forbidden me to return to Iraklion Air Station. I do try to put up with his caring about me.
Thank you for reading; you have been very tolerant.
The remains of the movie theatre viewed from my projection booth. (Click to enlarge)
Didn’t favor any photos with me included, but I relented once. (Click to enlarge)