Death Of An Expatriat
Feature by Willard Manus

Hal Goldman died recently in Lindos. His name won't mean much to anyone reading this--unless you happened to have spent time on Mykonos or Rhodes over the past three decades.

Hal was an American out of San Francisco who became an expatriate in the late 50's, living first in Spain, then in the Greek islands. He had started out as a dancer but had switched in his 20's to the fine arts--commercial and interior design, painting and sculpting. Before leaving the USA he had also designed sets and lighting for various theatre and dance companies.

There was nothing Hal couldn't do with his hands, which were golden. He loved to tinker with gardens, textiles and woodwork, not to speak of "found objects"--a fancy name for junk--which he scavenged from garbage dumps and used-car lots.

My wife and I met him in 1961, when we serendipitously discovered Lindos on our honeymoon. Hal was one of a dozen-odd foreigners living in Lindos, most of whom were painters and writers. He helped us get a house. The going rental at the time was ten dollars a month (300 drachmas). He was scandalized when he heard we had agreed to pay twelve dollars.

"It's not right," he said, "You're spoiling it for the rest of us."

That didn't stop him, though, from helping us get settled. Since Lindos houses did not come with furniture or cutlery--much less running water or electricity--we were in dire need of help. Hal provided a mattress, the odd chair or two, a kerosene lamp and much advice. To keep water cool, he showed us how to wrap a ceramic jug in wet burlap. To keep flies and mosquitoes out, he tacked bridal veiling over the windows and made beaded curtains out of wine corks for the doorways.

He also loaned us a Greek grammar book so that we could begin to learn the language. He also taught us some Greek dances--and how to drink retsina and ouzo. In those days it was possible to buy fermented spirits in bulk amounts, for little more than pennies. We all drank in commercial quantities--to the rue of our livers and kidneys. Hal soon switched to a beer-only policy, which was just as well, because when he got drunk he turned cantankerous and vicious.

Hal worked hard in those days, turning out oil paintings, water colors, pencil and ink sketches that he sold to galleries both in Greece and abroad. He didn't have to depend on his handiwork to survive, however. His well-to-do-family back home still owned property in San Francisco and he had a mutual fund that provided him with a quarterly check.

During our first stay in Lindos my wife became pregnant. To ease her discomfort in the extreme heat of summer, we abandoned Lindos for Mykonos and its cooling winds. Hal told us to ask for Vienoula Kousathana when we got settled there. She was not only the unofficial mayor of the island but the woman who had turned Mykonos into the weaving center of Greece.

Vienoula was in her late 40's. She had been born on the island but had emigrated with her husband to England, where he served in the merchant marine. When she returned to the Cyclades in 1955, she launched her weaving crusade. She could not have succeeded in it without Hal Goldman's help. Together they showed the women how to process and dye wool, how to weave on handlooms and knit according to colorful designs. The rough, knobbly wool--reflecting such local colors as fuschia bouganvillea, the billiard-green sea and the hard-blue of the sky above--was then transformed into dresses, blouses, shirts, bags and sweaters which eventually won the world.

When Mavis and I returned to Lindos a year later with our tiny daughter Lisa in our arms, Hal was there to guide us to a new house, one with a spacious courtyard shaded by three pomegranate trees. He was as big a part of our life as before, cooking dinner, going on picnics, minding Lisa, advising on where to shop.

Though he had a private income that was more than adequate for his needs, when it came to money Hal was something of a cheapskate. He would roam from one end of town to another, comparison shopping. "Don't buy beets at Tsampiko's," he'd warn us later. "They're two drachmas cheaper at Anastasi's. Anastasi also sells Pironi beer for five drachmas less a bottle."

Even in his last days, when he was too ill to leave his bed, he would issue orders to Mavis. "Please check all the grocery stores in Lindos and find out who has the best price for milk."

Hal could be opinionated and dogmatic in arguments, gloomy and depressed in demeanor. He was at his happiest when playing Scrabble with my mother, who came out from New York every summer. Both excellent, evenly-matched players, they went head to head in marathon Scrabble sessions that began on the main beach and continued through the night in our courtyard. Privately each complained that the other cheated.

Many of the permanent members of Lindos' foreign colony bought houses in the 70's. Hal was no different, except that he declined to purchase one of the classic, Knights of St John "captain's" houses, settling instead for a tiny, two-story structure squeezed into a back street. The courtyard was a postage stamp, but the house did have an upstairs balcony with a grand view of the acropolis. He liked to sit up there and paint, read or sunbathe in the nude.
Hal decorated his house in typical "Hal" fashion: home-made furniture, a tin box with spigot for a shower (even though running water and electricity had finally come to Lindos), lamps on pulleys salvaged from the Rhodes junkyard. He did buy himself a television, though, a small black and white box which became his main companion in later years.

At various times in the 37 years we knew him, Hal had a partner in his life--but they didn't last long. He did have a big love affair, the biggest of his life, with a handsome Greek boy in the village. But when Takis married and started a family, the affair ended.

Hal's homosexuality caused him some grief in Lindos, especially during the junta years when there was a tough, hostile police chief who disapproved of all foreigners, whether straight or gay. Hal was continually fighting for a residence permit and often had to leave Greece for extended stays in England and Italy.

Things got better for him after the junta fell, though it wasn't until recent years that he was treated with deference and respect, as befitting the elder statesman he had become. Hal--known to the Greeks as Hari--was a part of village life, a fixture, a character, a member of the family.

It was in the 80's that severe arthritis struck him, in the fingers--which meant he could no longer wield a paintbrush. That was an agony for him, not to be able to use those golden hands, though he did manage to fashion a ski rack for us, using bits of old wood, some luggage straps and a few nuts and bolts. We used that rack for the next five years.

Hal's physical condition kept worsening. The list of his ailments was long and horrifying; by the end he was so weak and debilitated he could barely get out of bed. His neighbor Zenovia brought him a pot of food a day, but he had lost his taste for food and his small, thin frame kept wasting away. Even though he wanted to die, his spirit would not allow it.

By now Mavis and I were living most of the year in the USA. We begged Hal to give up Lindos and come to Los Angeles, where he could find better medical attention--and companionship--in a nursing home. He wouldn't hear of it. He wanted to die in Lindos--and so he did, but not until he had suffered much, all alone in a small, dark room with only a television set by his side.

It was a sad, miserable way to die--especially for a man who had been so active and creative, so giving and considerate in life, always quick with a quip, a laugh, an anecdote, a word of wisdom.

Hal's knowledge of art, theatre, dance and design were encyclopedic. He was also a gifted artist who could work in a variety of styles and forms. His love of Greece and especially Lindos was deep-rooted and passionate. He was of a special expatriate breed that will never be seen in the Mediterranean again, a one-in-a-million kind of person.

Good night, Hal. Goodby. dear friend.