Home > Uncategorized > My kingdom for your underpants

My kingdom for your underpants

It was my sincere hope to be able to post before today, but connectivity issues as the hotel have complicated my posting schedule. Even the best plan doesn’t survive first contact with the facts on the ground. I learned this lesson with startling alacrity when I found myself wandering around the alleys of Pylos, among the stray dogs and cats of this mountainside town, desperately searching for underwear. I hadn’t expected to find myself in this position, certainly not during my first full day in Greece. Yet there I was yesterday, wearing boxers I’d put on Thursday, straining to remember that the Greek word for briefs is ‘kilota’. Even if I’d been able to remember the word at the time, I doubted either the dog or cat, or the surly woman walking in front of me talking to herself, would be able to offer much assistance. Pylos is both a seaside city and a mountain town. Unlike the boringly efficient Great Plain towns I’m used to in the Midwest, radiating outward from a center in vaguely concentric circles, stubbornly efficient, Pylos is a series of zig-zags cut out of the face of a mountain, staring out over a series of cliffs into the Bay of Navarino. The automobiles, however, simply refuse to acknowledge the hairpin nature of their fair city, and come barreling down the mountain at three to four trillion miles an hour. It is the only city I’ve visited where cars actually manage to violate Einstein’s theory of relativity. My working theory is that the tight switchbacks of the mountain roads actually manage to curve space-time itself past the breaking point, creating a quantum singularity that allows cars to drive so terrifyingly fast, they actually run you over BEFORE they leave their driveways in the morning. It is because of this insane quantum paradox that there are no famous Pylos physicists. At the bottom of the quantum horror that is the main road through Pylos lies the Plataea, a town square that sits next to the bay. The majority of the town’s stores (ie, five of them) surround the square, which acts as a sort of a communal backyard for Pylos’ families. It’s in this charming setting that young children first learn the skill of diving out of the way of drunk moped drivers at 11pm.

The Plataea, where small children practice soccer and dodging psychotic moped drivers

The Plataea, where small children practice soccer and dodging psychotic moped drivers

We’ve been informed by the project supervisors in strict, stentorian tones, that Pylos is a quiet, conservative town, conservative even by Greek standards (which, it must be noted, includes having their priests continue to run around in gigantic, medieval, fuck-off beards), and that quiet hours are strictly enforced by the police. Someone has clearly neglected to inform Pylos’ children of this, as they continue to play a live-action version of frogger at midnight. But at two in the afternoon, the Plataea is relatively quiet, Pylos’ adults pleasantly drunk, and the children either tucked away or passed out under the hot sun. I flit from store to store, each no bigger than a New York City bodega, and with as much selection. I repeat ‘kilota?’ with a smile and a hopeful raise of the eyebrows at every shoe store, liquor store, and tourist trap I walk into. I come away with no underwear, but several boxes of Greek cigarettes and a T-shirt with Greek statues dressed in hulu skirts. At last I find a lingerie store, all sultry models with come hither looks impressively brief briefs.

The local lingerie store, and home to my underpants

The local lingerie store, and home to my underpants

I consider the possibility of washing the one pair of boxer shorts I own everyday, then realize that, if I want to maintain even a modicum of heigeine for the next three weeks, I’m going to have to cross-dress. I swallow hard and enter the lingerie store. I patiently wait among the three other housewives in a space about as large as my Brooklyn kitchen, feeling faintly ridiculous as they haggle over G-strings. After sorting through various thongs and frilly things that I can only imagine would be exceedingly uncomfortable on an archaeological dig, wonder of wonders, I find a box with a man’s chiseled abdomen on it. MENS UNDERWEAR. I’m so happy I almost cry. The price on hte box is listed at 17 Euros, which at the current exchange rate converts to roughly 200 USD. I cry again, this time at my imminent poverty, whip out the VIsa and gamely acquire three pairs. I’ve never been more excited by a clothing purchase. It isn’t until I get home that I realize to what extent Greek men’s underwear mimics the style of Greem women’s underwear. Ladies who have dated European men, you know of what I speak. Perhaps I’ll spend the rest of the dig going commando…

Seriously, though, someone please get my underwear out of storage and send it to Hotel Karalis, Kalamata Street 26, GR 24001, Pilos, c/o me, Room 107. I look absolutely ridiculous in Greek boxer briefs.

  1. J
    June 9, 2009 at 11:02 am

    My god, nearly the exact same thing happened to me in Brazil on my 2006 trip. In that case, I’d somehow managed to forget the HUGE FUCK-OFF PILE OF UNDERWEAR I’d dutifully stacked next to my suitcase and gleefully ran off without them. Maya Bee was quite entertained by this story some time later, making up the catchy little ditty “I am Jahi — I have come for your ants, and I have no underpants.”

    Although Belo Horizonte is a major metropolis with all sorts of indigenous and foreign-owned retailers in the mold of K-Mart and Target, all I could find were bikini briefs, briefer briefs, and supposed boxer briefs that were in actuality also bikini briefs. Also, apparently no one in Brazil is of my particular construction, because I couldn’t really find ones in the right girth. (Waist girth, don’t get any ideas.) I got “medium” which turned out to be “small” and some “larges” which turned out to be “somewhat less small”.

    I don’t remember if my folks sent me a care package of underwear or I just accumulated enough “large” briefs to make it through… the thing I most vividly remember is a) being too exhausted to do it when I got there on a Friday, followed by not finding anything appropriate on Saturday, and then forgetting that many/most of the stores were closed on Sunday, so b) after wearing the same underwear for a number of days, the greatest joy of that entire trip was Sunday night when I took a shower, laid naked on the bed all evening and felt *clean*, secure in the knowledge that only a matter of hours laid between me and clean underwear.

    • nycwastrel
      June 9, 2009 at 9:57 pm

      It makes perfect sense to me that we both somehow managed to forget our underpants before leaving. I too had a giant fuck off pile that somehow got left behind (in my defense, I had just gotten back from another trip and had to move out of my apartment within about 72 hours). But yeah, that’s par for the course for the two of us.

      “How we doing?”
      “Same as always.”
      “That bad, huh?”

  2. J
    June 10, 2009 at 11:54 am

    “Fasten then zip, or zip then fasten?”
    “Fasten, then zip. You?”
    “[…]How much longer until we arrive?”
    “One hour, fifty-seven minutes…Wanna talk socks?”
    “It’s just a question.”
    “I’m not having this conversation.”

    Did I mention I dig the blog name, Wastrel?

  3. Dannie
    June 28, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    Finally found this fabled blog of yours.

    I lived through a similar scenario attempting to find a comfort bra. Although I ended up at the same destination I discovered that not only did no such bra exists in Greece, but no woman exceeds a 20 inch chest. Women didn’t look that thin where we were.

    • nycwastrel
      June 29, 2009 at 11:24 pm

      The blog is fabled already? Awesome. I’d hoped for ‘supposed’ at best, then maybe ‘rumored’, then ‘suspected’, then ‘famous’, then ‘renowned’, THEN ‘fabled’, then ‘legendary’. That SEO stuff must really be working…

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