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The Most Beautiful Sound

April 25, 2014

First posted 3/11/2012

 

A fellow blogger recently listed a few of her favorite things and one of the items, a classic TV sitcom, brought a smile to my face and made me remember one of the most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard.

 

It was ’76 and Mrs. C. and I were on a bus riding from Patras to Athens, a journey that didn’t look long on a map but seemed endless on a bus with clucking chickens and grunting pigs. Mrs. C. and I were exhausted when we arrived in downtown Athens a few minutes before ten PM. We had yet to find a place to stay so I told Mrs. C. to keep her eyes on the other passengers so we could follow them to a hotel or pension after I collected our backpacks from the bus driver.

 

When I returned, she was hopping with excitement. “Look!” she said, her voice thick with excitement. My eyes followed the direction of her trembling finger and I caught my first glimpse of one of the marvels of the world all lit up—the Parthenon atop the Acropolis. We were so absorbed by the spectacle that we didn’t hear the bus pulling away. At exactly ten o’clock the Acropolis winked into darkness, as if someone had flipped off a switch. None of our fellow bus passengers were in sight. At that moment we realized we were the farthest we’d ever been from home, in nearly total darkness with no idea where to go.

 

Weighed down by our backpacks, we wandered the streets of Athens. Street signs were no help; the language didn’t resemble any of the romance languages we were familiar with (Mrs. C. was marginally competent in French) and the words appeared ridiculously long with an absurd amount of Xs in them. I became alarmed when the streets narrowed and men came out of dark cubicles to stare—not at me but at Mrs. C. She was the only female in sight.

 

We picked up speed but it hardly mattered since we didn’t have a clue where we were going. Shadows in corners were starting to play on my imagination, as if I required further convincing that I needed to get my wife off the street. And then, wafting through the darkness, we heard the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard, the music of my childhood, a paean to home and safety, more uplifting than Mozart—the musical theme of I Love Lucy. We followed the glorious sound to a dark hotel, pulled open the door and stepped inside.

 

The room was lit only by the glow of a television. A dozen Greeks were sitting around the TV, pounding their thighs and laughing at Lucy’s rubber face. The dialogue was in English, with Greek translation below. Ricky was saying, “Lucy…Lucy…Lucy! Now that you’ve pulled your sheets together you need to lie between your blankets!” It was hard to imagine how Ricky’s Spanglish could be translated into Greek, but apparently it wasn't a problem.

 

I dropped my backpack to draw the proprietor’s attention and dozens of eyes, lit by the eerie blue of the TV, turned in our direction. My voice cracked when I said, “We’re looking for a room. Do you have any available?”

 

A man came forward, reached for a key on a wall and handed it to me. He pointed at stairs. I thanked him and he went back to the TV. I think Lucy had a loving cup stuck on her head.

 

We climbed five flights of stairs in the dark and found a door with a lock that fit our key. Inside we discovered a moderately clean room with a comfortable-looking bed. We dropped on it in exhaustion.

 

The next morning as Ms. C. lay in bed I opened my eyes to dazzling Greek light flooding through glass doors leading to a small balcony. I rubbed my eyes, ambled to the balcony and saw a forest of TV antennas. I glanced higher, and rising above the antennas was the Parthenon, the goal of our journey. As I stared at this architectural wonder I could hear my wife’s gentle breathing on the bed. And playing in my head, over and over, was the comforting theme to I Love Lucy.

 

 



Comments

26 Comments
So I guess the bus party did not do head counts before pulling off. :) My family and I were in Puerto Rico a couple years ago and my husband probably had that same fear going through his body - except we were on the interstate with all the signs in Spanish. I was calm, but would not have been if I were Mrs. C. lost on the dark street. Good that Lucy and Desi saved you and that you landed near the Parthenon. A good story! and a priceless memory, I'm sure.
By: Anita on April 25, 2014
oh, my. i'd have been terrified! a comforting, familiar sound to the rescue!
By: TexWisGirl on April 25, 2014
And this is why I don't travel out of the US or the Caribbean Islands. My stories suffer, but i have a chubby blogger to travel for me.
By: Cranky on April 25, 2014
Laughter is universal language, and it came to your rescue.
By: mimi on April 25, 2014
I love lucky, saved you two.
By: Izdiher on April 25, 2014
Backpacks? This journey must have been years ago... yes? I can't see you and the Mrs. lugging backpacks today. re: story; you found yourselves at the right place at the right time.
By: Daniel LaFrance on April 25, 2014
I always get so tired on the bus to Athens. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on April 25, 2014
I think we tend to think all dark city streets are full of crime and I imagine we are a bit off the mark in most of these areas. The Greeks were more than happy to provide you with a place to sleep. So, you did not have a reservation somewhere, I take it? I Love Lucy is certainly a universal show.
By: Tabor on April 25, 2014
I don't remember the Lucy theme, but I loved the Dick van Dyke show theme from close to the same time period. I have such fond memories of the sit-coms of our youth. They were so sweet and good-hearted. About wandering around Greece in the dark - you're lucky nothing bad happened. They aren't very nice people... Next time book a tour trip with nice accomodations.
By: Lexa Cain on April 25, 2014
Yikes that is my worst nightmare about traveling abroad. What could have been a dreadful and scary night was saved by Lucy. Loved this story.
By: Akansas Patti on April 25, 2014
Any chance you have a picture of you and Mrs. C in Athens in 1976??? I'm trying to picture you as young, newly-wed hippies! :-)
By: Pixel Peeper on April 25, 2014
Ha! The bus ride with chickens and pigs reminds me of Kathleen Turner as Joan Wilder on that bus she thought was going to Cartagena. You know. Just before she met Michael Douglas as Jack Colton. Thank goodness you didn't have to chop the heels off Mrs. C's shoes, toss her backpack over a jungle cliff, and ride down an impromptu mudslide, landing in a compromising position with your face in...Never mind. You were in Greece, not Colombia. Who knew the Parthenon had a curfew as early as 10:00 p.m.? You'd think it was old enough to stay lit up later.
By: Val on April 25, 2014
great story! especially turning around and finding no one...eeek. Perfect ending!
By: Kathe W. on April 25, 2014
So it turned out nice after all!!! My wife tells similar stories from her time travelling Europe.
By: red on April 25, 2014
I never was an I Love Lucy fan, particularly; but that would make me a fan for life ... nice story!
By: Tom Sightings on April 25, 2014
I went to the Parthenon in the summer of 1981. The lights on it----So beautiful!!
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on April 25, 2014
Well that would have scared me crazy! That has to be what newcomers to our country feel ...that same sense of "home" and "comfort" when they hear their language spoken on the radio, tv, or see it written on store fronts.
By: Coloring Outside the Lines on April 26, 2014
Stephen: Lucy is the most beloved comedienne I can think of anywhere in the world, and I enjoyed reading this story!
By: Michael Manning on April 26, 2014
It must have been really scary when the lights went out, and Mrs C and you were lost! We have I Love Lucy in the UK too, it's a great show, and a fabulous ending to this adventure when Lucy came to your rescue. Another great post, Stephen, thank you.
By: Sharon Bradshaw on April 27, 2014
Amazing how the universe leads us to what we seek with the most diverse means.....I Love Lucy is a goodie.
By: Oma Linda on April 27, 2014
'I love Lucy' brings back such great memories - as well as showing my age. Interesting that it has such universal appeal.
By: Bryan Jones on April 27, 2014
Great story of your travels. I Love Lucy provided humour, music and in your case, comfort. Thanks for the ear worm!
By: Hilary on April 27, 2014
that's a fantastic story! so funny to imagine something so silly leading you to a place of comfort and rest and safety.
By: lime on April 27, 2014
It truly is a horrible feeling, being isolated in a strange place.
By: John on April 28, 2014
What a magical memory.
By: Mitchell is Moving on April 28, 2014
I have said it before that you and Mrs. C are better travelers than I am. I would of been frightened at the prospects of being lost and not being able to read the signs, Lucy might not of helped me to feel better.
By: Cheryl P. on April 28, 2014

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