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
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.
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.
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
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
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.