| August 28, 2005
Sailing From Santorini
At the end of our trip to Santorini, Tripp and I hosted a
couple of parties for some friends who were celebrating their
20th wedding anniversary and his 50th birthday.
They are people who live in the rare air of the very wealthy
and this was an extravaganza that will be remembered for decades
by the participants. Thirty some friends of Jeff and Joyce
descended upon Geneva, toured over to Askona, rally raced
cars to St. Moritz, dined at the restaurant where Jeff proposed
to Joyce, flew to Istanbul, did a scavenger hunt in the Grand
Bazaar, lounged at poolside in Bodrum and sipped cocktails
at the summer home of Ahmed Ertegun, winged their way to Santorini
when the sea was too rough to race the chartered yachts, partied
at Feredini on Santorini, dined at Kukumavlos and then winged
their way to a spa at Porte Vecchio in Corsica, where they
dined beachside with a finale of fireworks.
All this in twelve or so days; a trip that leaves me breathless
just thinking about it.
Most of the guests stayed at Perivolas, arguably the most
famous hotel on Santorini, featured in a thousand travel magazines
over the years with its pool that seems to go off into infinity.
Standing by the pool, drinking a special concoction the ingredients
of which I can only speculate upon but whose active one was
vodka, one of the men stood and said to another: think how
fortunate we are to have been born in this time and place,
with these resources at our call, to live THIS life.
He spoke as I was gathering them up to take them to the Proteus,
one of the yachts, to go out to a mud spa, so they could roll
in the warm, smelly but supposedly healing wet dirt of one
of Santorini's inlets.
As he spoke, it occurred to me that he was wise to realize
how lucky he was; how lucky this whole group of them is, including
Most of us live lives that are breathtaking in comparison
to the world's billions. While we lounged in the white cave
rooms of Perivolas, the wonderful, cruel earth claimed its
victims from starvation and disease, far from these frothy
There was also for me a sense that this has been the way
of it through all of time. Two thousand years ago, probably
on this very island, some wealthy Roman citizens came ashore
from a smart trireme and enjoyed luxurious revels during which
someone might have remembered how lucky they were compared
with the rest of the world.
No matter the society nor the age in which it has flourished,
there has always been a privileged class.
The history of a society is written by the choices made by
America's Founding Fathers were, for the most part, scions
of the well-to-do, the privileged landowning strata of Colonial
society that lived for the most part apart from the rest of
their country's subsistence scratching fellow residents.
Their choice, at the end of the day, was to create a unique
form of government which, for all its faults, is better than
most other forms and has modeled for much of what has democratically
worked in the last two centuries.
We borrowed from the British, whose lords stood up to King
John and demanded the Magna Carta. They borrowed from the
Romans and the Romans from the Greeks.
Who they borrowed from, I haven't a clue. They invented a
lot of what we, in the west, know of as human society and
that is why Thomas Cahill is correct in his book: SAILING
THE WINE DARK SEA: Why The Greeks Matter. The Greeks still
matter because of what their privileged class left us.
It is important we think of this for we, as Americans, more
privileged than most societies now or at any time in history,
need to be thinking of what we will be leaving the generations
to come and whether two thousands years from now a writer
will be arguing for why we still matter.