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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Greek Man's Memory of Epirote School Days & A Midday Pep Talk

You need only to wait 40-50 years before your children and/or your students begin to appreciate you. That's what I've gleaned from my husband, Nick's, attempt to comfort me in a moment of despair.

We've met for a brief daytime break during the school day. My head, having dropped to the table, rests on the back of my hands. I'm barely able to lift the feather-light weight of an espresso cup as I relay the latest of my classroom drama.

A bundle of perfectly sculpted lesson plans with activities and mastery goals that could bring tears of joy to an observing administrator, still lay untouched as my only goal has become, quite by necessity-----for those newly immigrated 12-year-old boys from a country that eludes me in my repertoire of worldly knowledge-----to keep their hands off each other, away from their noses and out of their pants which seem to have them in a perpetual state of itch. My arm muscle aches from pointing to the self-crafted poster in their home language that reads: "I expect you to behave like young men." And it is at this moment Nick starts to reminisce.

"Maybe they're from a small village," he says, a far off look in his eyes, "maybe a village without water. It's hard to stay clean without water. The family might not be used to having running water. Maybe they're conserving it without realizing."

I see a look of understanding come across his face, a realization of sorts and this is what he says about his own memory as a student some fifty years ago in the rural countryside of Eprius, Greece:  "We must have driven out teachers crazy. We were wild animals . . . with horrible behavior. And we only bathed once a week, Sunday for church. We washed our hands and face every morning but we were filthy, running around, sweaty and wild, just wild." He shakes his head slowly. "We really tortured those teachers."

Apparently, new teachers were required to work in that poor area before they could move on to another location; perhaps one they preferred. So few stayed and there was very little continuity in the students' lives. But Nick remembers one really dedicated music teacher.

He says, "she never gave up on us. She was so positive and cheerful and we really liked her. She stayed for a long time."

Okay! I get it. Positive. Cheerful. Never give up. I suck down that triple espresso and wander back into battle . . . um, I mean go back to school . . . fully caffeinated and bolstered by the fact that the boys might possibly, maybe, sort of, kind of, perhaps think about the effort I put into educating them.

Forty or fifty years from now.


Among the Zinnias is part of an Amazon promotion: 99 cents for a few more days with this link. I hope you will give it a try!

Independent authors often have quite a challenge in getting exposure for their work. I hope, dear reader, you will consider writing a review on Amazon or Goodreads.com.





Thursday, October 19, 2017

Rembetika (with a side of ouzo): A new Method for learning Greek

This method for learning the language of Greece is one that I'm enjoying a great deal! It's the latest endeavor of this high-strung perfectionist who will only believe she speaks Greek when it exits her mouth in perfectly fluent chains of speech. As it turns out, the ouzo is integral to the method, as it seems to get me closer to that perfection with each sip.

Rembetika, an historical Greek music steeped in culture and history, is hard to define. But suffice it to say that the lost love, sorrowful tales and tragically flawed humans, depicted in Rembetika lyrics are simple and straightforward with many opportunities for learning idioms and colloquial Greek.  I discovered this at the taverna, Piperi, in Parga, Greece, with friends, Cathy and Hanne. Hanne, mentioned that she has been using Rembetika to help her improve her Greek language.
Sotiria Bellou

The Piperi Taverna group usually consists of several musicians and one female singer whose voice renders my husband, Nick, soppy with emotion and nostalgia (not an easy feat). The singer's voice, to him, is that of Sotiria Bellou which takes him back to his 1960s school days in Athens when apparently he was spending much time hanging out in tavernas listening to Rembetika and pining over its lyrics.

Likewise, the Piperi Taverna music awakens its patrons with songs that release inhibitions from even the most repressed among us. During the hottest summer nights of Parga, there are always impromptu additions to the music, by overenthusiastic patrons who might start drumming on the table or, in bursts of emotion, try to out-sing the singer in an ouzo-soaked shouting voice. While these shows of enthusiasm are extremely entertaining, I prefer the actual melodic voice of the singer, and I enjoy singing along quietly if I've figured out the lyrics, or if I haven't, just making up my own.

This brings me back to the Ouzo/Rembetika language lessons. Much of Rembetika can now be either downloaded to a device or found on Youtube. Thank you technology! Thus, not long ago, I began listening to one line at time as I elicited my Greek-speaking husband to translate it to English. He's a patient man but analyzing language is not one of his favorite activities. "If I wanted to become a translator, I would have . . . well, I wouldn't have, because I'd never want to be a translator." Those words were never spoken, but I could see them in his expression.

Then, Jim Potts, the very talented British author of several books and of the blog, Corfu Blues and Global Views suggested I find Gale Holst's book, Road to Rembetika: Music of a Greek Subculture, Songs of Love, Sorrow and Hashish because the last 60 pages are songs in Greek with the English translation. I ordered it from Amazon and it was in my hands a few days later. Might I add that it was delivered to Margariti, the village that had fewer than a handful of telephone lines, no running water, and primitive transport when I'd first gotten there in 1983?  Again, I say:

Thank you technology!

So, with my book in hand, my downloaded songs and my bottle of ouzo, I'm determined to be fluent by .  .  .  well, let's just say, soon. I might not be flawlessly fluent yet, but I'm working on it!


The Nifi, Your Own Kind, and Among the Zinnias are available in paperback and ebook with this LINK. And free with Kindle Unlimited. I hope you'll give one of them a try!

Independent authors often have quite a challenge in getting exposure for their work. I hope, dear reader, you will consider writing a review on Amazon or Goodreads.com.




Sunday, September 24, 2017

Artifacts left Behind: Epirote Women

Epirus, Greece, has leapt from the 19th century to the 21st in a matter of thirty years. Until the 1980s, life remained as grueling and difficult as the centuries before. And it had been the women of Epirus who'd kept that world turning through wars, political upheaval and devastating poverty.

This blog post is about the artifacts they've left behind and by extension, a tribute to their strength.

I was fortunate enough to witness that lifestyle --  a piece of Epirus history, the history of its women -- before it faded to an insignificant rhetoric. In the summer of 1983, when I first arrived in Margariti, Epirus was still moving at a slow crawl toward modernization with no indoor plumbing, primitive roads, limited communication to the outside world and a paralyzing culture shock that had me locked in a fog for quite a while. Dictated by chance of gender and birthplace, these women worked tirelessly during every moment of the day for the simplest necessities of life, such as clean drinking water and edible food. During that first visit, despite the fact that I was the daughter-in-law (the nifi), my foreign status seemed to exempt me from such labor as my sisters-in-law worked beside my mother-in-law, Chevi, for what seemed to me like every waking hour.

Chevi left behind many objects of this laborious era. They are memories and reminders, but not so long ago they were Chevi's valuable possessions.

The round wooden board for making pita would be placed on the floor where the dough would be rolled out to paper thinness.

The actual cooking took place in the fourno, the dome-shaped oven that was often covered by a small structure for protection from the weather. The heat for cooking inside the fourno came from wood collected and stored by the women during the fall months.

This wood-collecting contributed to the bald appearance of the mountains and surrounding area during that time. Such deforestation had numerous effects on the weather, as well as on the women's spines which often were loaded beyond that of any pack mule. They learned to carry this weigh as young girls while their bones were still developing.
That wood was placed inside the fourno and lit. One of my most jarring memories is that of the morning smoke that would hover over the village as everyone was lighting fires to begin the day's cooking. Still, when I smell smoke on the mountainside, a rare occasion in the dry summer months, it brings me back to that first encounter with Margariti. Those charred branches eventually became glowing hot coals creating varying temperatures along the inside surface of the fourno.

But how would a woman cook from a pot in such a contraption, among burning coals? The pot would be placed on a triangular stand. The stand had a curve in its side for grabbing and pushing it around to the various temperatures within the fourno. The small curve could also hold a brigi, the tiny pot for making coffee. The brigi's rounded bottom could sit on the rounded edge of the curved stand, allowing the women to prepare coffee at a moment's notice.

The Epriote ecological footprint was tiny in those days. Household items were either made of biodegradable materials like wood and cloth or they were made of metal, almost indestructible and therefore rarely needing to be replaced.

Chickens, goats, sheep and other animals were often kept close to the home, rather than the farm. Scraps of food that might be left after preparing a meal would be thrown to the animals. Leftover food was covered with a cloth to be eaten at the next meal. I may have contributed to the impending proliferation of plastic by bringing ziploc plastic bags to replace those cloth covers. At the time, it seemed more sanitary to me. (I hang my head in shame.)

There was also a round wooden spatula for moving the large pans of pita around the inside of the fourno. It reminds me a bit of the modern-day pizza-oven spatulas. In those early Margariti days, Chevi used one daily. It hangs beside her giant rectangular container for dough. The container is hollowed out on one side where the dough would be placed and covered, waiting for it to rise.

My Greek family rarely used butter. It was a foreign taste to them.

I tried to sneak it into some receipts a few times and the results were not very positive. However, my father-in-law, from Ano Kotsonopolo, far up in the Pindus Mountains came from butter-eaters and his mother's wooden butter churn made its way to our Margaiti wall of artifacts.

Among those artifacts there are also several irons. My grandmother, living in the Adirondack Mountains of N.Y. had an iron made of solid metal that was put onto the stove top to heat and then used to de-wrinkle clothing. Chevi's irons are hollow. The top opens and would be filled with hot coals from the fourno, then closed and ready to use.

These tools were a regular part of Epirote life for a long time. Even after Chevi's children bought her some new kitchen utensils for a kitchen that was moved indoors to improve her life, she continued to cook in the fourno and to use several of these older possessions.

I was fortunate to have arrived when I did. I was able to see Epirus just before the dawn of those slow-moving changes. The experience not only shaped the rest of my life, but will also stay with me forever reminding me of those who carried the burden of early Epirote life.   The women of Epirus!

The Nifi, Your Own Kind and Among the Zinnias are available in ebook and paperback with THIS LINK. And they're free if you have Kindle Unlimited. I hope you will give one of them a try!



Sunday, August 20, 2017

. . . The reason we drink too much in Greece

There's nothing earth-shattering here, no words of wisdom or deep philosophy, just a compilation of photos showing a random variety of dishes (also known as mezes, or mezedes) which, in Greece, are automatically served with drinks. So a couple of drinks and a plate of food, amount to a fun night out for as little as 4 to 8 Euros. For me, this means that I often order much more than my liver can filter, just to see what kind of mezedes the server will bring.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Cyprus: A Country Occupied

I had no right to cry and yet, I could not stop the tears. By right, I mean my life had never touched these places, these memories, except through the stories of my husband, who'd been a soldier at the time and my dear friend, Andrea, who lived it, in her own painful way. She'd been a new bride, in the U.S. when her village was invaded, her entire family having the daunting task of trying to escape by foot on a land as flat and treeless as a cutting board. Turkish parachuters floating down to amber fields as mothers ran with children, but to where? It was not clear to anyone. Back then, 1974, there was no social media to keep the information flowing. The people of Cyprus had no idea what was happening. The radio station was quickly occupied and continued to play music. Immediately, the Greek government sent ships to help. My husband, Nick was on one of them. They were blocked by American and British ships, forced to watch from afar, impotent while the atrocities of war with its brainwashed soldiers unraveled.

For Andrea, there was only a brief mention of the Turkish invasion on the nightly news in her New York home and then silence. . . and agony as she waited for some word of her family's fate. After six months it finally came. They'd gotten out, all of them, one of the few fortunate families. Theirs was an in-tact family but without a home, without a village. Refugees forced to the other side of the island as a handful of political players, untouched by the tragedy, drew lines on a map, invisible borders that remain today.

The people are referred to as Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, both groups having lived peacefully as a diverse population of christian and muslim Cypriots until the invasion from mainland Turkey, which forced the Turkish Cypriots from their homes in the south as they feared repercussions from the injured Greek Cypriots. So they fled to the Turkish-occupied side of Cyprus while the Greek Cypriot refugees who were able to escape that war zone, relocated in the south.

There are ghost towns at the border that lie within something called the buffer zone, a sort of no-man's-land between the two sides. It's too dangerous to settle near there even though it's more than 40 years later. What would happen if one side or the other decided to take more land? Better to be as far from the border as possible. So we passed by completely empty shells of large villages with houses, town squares, and churches standing vacant against the cypriot-blue sky as nature slowly covers the stones, taking them back to the earth. . . a historical site for future generations to ponder over.

We were there to visit Pigi (Πηγη), Andrea's village, something she's dreamed of for years. The border has been open since 2003. Greek Cypriots who've been exiled from their homes for over 4 decades have trickled back to see their homes, but those houses are occupied by the enemy . . . kind of. Our Cypriot license plate identified us and most people understood why we were there. There were hesitant waves of welcome, a honk or two from a passing car with Turkish plates, a few meek nods of the head as we passed by cafes.

Where Andrea's house once stood, was a small vacant lot. The house had been razed by the displaced Turkish Cypriots. After the fighting ceased and the population of the island settled with Greek Cypriots banished to one side and Turkish Cypriots having fled to the other, Turkish people from the mainland of Turkey were sent to the occupied side to live in those houses still empty and to increase the so-called Turkish-Cypriot population. One of those houses was Andrea's. In situations such as this one, it appears all Cypriots were united. None seemed to want those Turkish neighbors, those outsiders, those non-Cypriots, so the Turkish Cypriots demolished the empty houses insuring the Turks from Turkey would go elsewhere. It seemed to be something both christian and muslim Cypriots agreed upon. They did not want Turkey's occupiers.

We walked through the village, while Andrea's husband followed in the car. The church where she'd gotten married still stood, defiled and unkempt. The symbols of christianity had been removed and the pigeons had taken up residence. There was the simultaneous joy of returning home, with the horror of what it had become, and it was emotionally confusing. I shot a brief video:



Although Andrea's house was no longer there, her sister's was. We got back in the car and drove slowly past the house. In 1974, her sister was a new bride and had lived in that newly built, newly furnished house for exactly one day when she and her husband had to flee. There was a man watering plants outside as we stopped and gawked. He motioned for us to come out of the car and then he called his mother. She welcomed us into the house. She had lived in Lefkosia back in 1974. As a Turkish Cypriot, she had feared repercussions from those Greeks who'd suffered during the invasion so she'd fled with her family to the occupied side. She did not like it, she said. It was too hot. Forty-four years later, she still wanted to go home.

The woman led us around the house with two younger women following. It wasn't clear who they were but they were swept up in the emotion as Andrea communicated with the older woman the best she could while pointing out changes. I quietly snapped photos, tears welling in my eyes as I watched Andrea use all of her might to stay composed.

Afterwards, we got back in the car and drove away from the occupied area, away from the woman who occupied the house and back across the checkpoint, back onto a well manicured, wide-paved road of Greek Cyprus.

On one awful day in 1974, a handful of men from various countries separated the people of Cyprus, drew a line between their two religions . . . but they are all Cypriots many of whom simply yearn to go home.




Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What You Find In a Greek Garden

In Greece, everyone's heard of construction projects that've been halted due to unexpected artifact finds. It's usually a tale of woe as the building project is kept in limbo waiting for a governmental decision -- to proceed as planned or to halt work permanently thus claiming the property as an archeological site. For this reason, it is rare for citizens to report any ruins they find while undergoing independent construction projects. Instead, such sites are often covered up and left for another era.

Likewise, gardeners in Greece have similar experiences. A mere generation ago when Greece was still struggling to meet the modern world, artifacts in one's garden were common place.


When my mother-in-law found an ancient coin while she was digging on the family farm, she
showed it to her children and asked, "Can we use this to buy something?" The answer was "no" so she tossed it aside and it lay unclaimed until many years later when it was put on a chain and worn with pride.

Remnants of war also tend to surface now and then. Take this belt buckle, for instance.

It was worn by one Greek teen throughout the 1960s after he'd found it half buried on the farm. For him it was a prize to show off with swagger. But as time went on, the belt that was attached to the buckle began to deteriorate. The buckle was lost and forgotten, only to reemerge some fifty years later in the family vegetable garden. Nostalgia for the teen-turned-old-man, melancholy for me. . . his pampered American wife, never having experienced war or the survival of such. So, with that belt buckle and with the Italian and German WWII helmets that have hung for decades in the family storehouse, the thoughts that encompass me as I listen to the discoverer tell his rendition of his childhood archeological finds, are of those soldiers who never came home.


Yes, I know, the German and Italian soldiers hurt many Greeks, maybe more so . . .  I've heard it many times. It's just hard not to feel the human side of it, though, when you have the luxury of standing on the sidelines.







Independent authors often have quite a challenge in getting exposure for their work. I hope, dear reader, you will consider writing a review on Amazon or Goodreads.com.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Margariti's Morning March


Currently there are two of us in this group. I am the not-so-fluent Greek speaker, making up Greek words that seem like they should be in the language and Toula is a do-or-die, won't-stop-until-I-get-the-point-across, barely-able English speaker.

But we are both fluent in grunts, groans, eye rolling and gestures. Thus, our morning conversations are both enlightening and somewhat confusing.

All are welcome to join us! Young, Old, middle aged, male, female, Greek-speakers, English-speakers, non-speakers etc.
However. . . and this is a big however. . .

No dogs, please.
Sorry.

Why no dogs?
Here are 4 reasons:

1. 1962, First Encounter with a Dog: I was playing at Little Jimmy Sorkell's house in Hicksville, NY. His puppy, which to my 4-year-old mind was a ferocious lion, jumped up on me and started barking. I peed all over the kitchen floor. His mother said something like "You make more of a mess than fido!" and then she got me a pair of Little Jimmy's scratchy boy-jeans to wear while she laundered my clothes.

2. 1987: Margariti, Greece . . . My brother-in-law thought it would be a good idea to keep a ferocious man-eating dog outside the door of our small 2-room house. I was terrified all that summer, especially at night. What if the dog got loose? It never stopped barking. My in-laws tried to reassure me. The dog would never hurt one of its own, they said, which I found completely unnerving. That dog was trying to get at an unfamiliar scent: American. I barely slept a wink that summer.

Friday, June 9, 2017

On the Road to Perdika

Greece is filled with summertime cantinas that could easily be passed by without a second thought, but this one, called Kantina Meeting, had caught our eye as we drove from the beach up to the village of Perdika, which lies between Parga and Syvota.

There was something about it . . . the detail in its structure that bespoke a clever creativeness begging to be investigated. We had to stop. And we hoped to meet the artist of such a creation.

As it turned out, the proprietor was Thanasis, a Greek who had returned to live in Perdika with his English-speaking wife. And this is how we met the very talented pastry chef, Katie, of Katie's Cakes.

She and Thanasis have 3 sons and have lived in Perdika since 2002. Before that, they lived in Corfu which is where they met. Katie's cakes are worth the trip to Perdika. In fact, after having tasted her delicious handiwork on one coffee stop after the beach, we made the trip back to Perdika just for a birthday cake which we brought all the way to Filiates where the celebration was taking place.

I find Katie especially interesting because she is a foreign "nifi" (daughter-in-law), a non-Greek married to a Greek which is something that comes with an entire village regardless of where the married couple decides to settle. And a foreign-nifi is profoundly different from a woman whose parents are Greek and comes back to Greece, leaving from the country in which she's been raised (Australia, Canada, the U.S.).  No, a foreign nifi is a Different-Language-Speaking woman who never dreamed she'd marry a Greek, who only thought of Greece as an idyllic vacation place, who expected a white picket fence and fine manicured lawn with a man from her own country.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

"Age" old Experience

When looking for a new physician, are you the type who wants an older more experienced doctor?

Once when given a choice while making an appointment for an orthopedic, I was asked by the receptionist, "Do you want to see the father or the son?" The two doctors practiced together. How sweet, I'd thought. Of course I wanted the father. I pictured a twenty-something-year-old son. However, when the old man hobbled in, I realized my mistake. The problem was with me, really. I didn't know I had gotten older. I've always felt more comfortable with a physician who is at least my age or a bit above, but that doesn't quite work anymore.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Back to Eden


The winter yoke has been removed. Summer is on the horizon and my bags are packed.

Epirus, Greece is my eden. What's yours?

Everyone needs that special place, a place into which we escape, remove ourselves from our usual environment for a short respite, a place with no newscasts, no mail, no set daily routine . . . a place where we can break free of all those rules that bind us.

Of course, once we've returned to earth, there is that deep depilating depression at knowing there is a long wait for our next departure.

But let's try not to think about that, yet.

For now . . . and for our physical health, mental stability, emotional well-being .  .  . let's find that hacksaw, cut those shackles loose and run free!




Independent authors often have quite a challenge in getting exposure for their work. I hope, dear reader, you will consider writing a review on Amazon or Goodreads.com.




Saturday, April 29, 2017

Hero or Narcissist

How does a national hero suddenly become a narcissistic nut?

When the book, A Man, came out in the early 1980s, I was barely 30 years old. At that time, Panagoulis was a brave Greek freedom fighter. My opinion of him was heavily swayed by the fact that I was enamored by my own Greek rebel who adored the book and the character.

Now, however, thirty years later as I've finally gotten around to reading it, Panagoulis seems more like a self-absorbed narcissist. But it's the woman who loved him intensely who has convinced me of this.

Oriana Fallaci was, without a doubt, a gifted writer which remains apparent throughout the book. But she had the opportunity to depict Panagoulis, the man she claimed to love, as the superhero many Greeks saw him. Yet her portrayal of Panagoulis seems more like a psychological profile of a very self-centered hyperactive boy. When someone suggests to Panagoulis that his desire to create another act of defiance against the dictator, is really his own ego trying to stay in the limelight, Fallaci says, "I hoped this would be a beneficial crisis," as she alludes to a sort of agreement with this assertion. Later, as Panagoulis hatches a new idea for rebellion and must wait for all the pieces to fall into place, Fallaci writes, "waiting. . . was the acid test of your stubbornness, of the monomania that afflicted you every time your faith spawned an idea and the idea became a psychosis." There is a moment when Panagoulis seems to reach a turning point and tells Fallaci that he has changed and that, "the real bombs are ideas. Any imbecile can pull a trigger." But he's lied so much to her, that the reader feels a sense of frustration when she believes him.

Along with these statements, there are the situations in which Panagoulis blatantly disregards Fallaci's feelings or well-being. He wants a "companion" and is a lonely man, yet he sneaks blocks of TNT into Fallaci's bag without her knowledge. In fact he lies to her and tells her, it's a rock from the archeological site which they're visiting when his TNT contact, slips him the explosive. Fallaci doesn't find out his lie until they've left the park. Panagoulis' actions are constantly a testament to his self-image, his own needs and his disregard for others.

Okay, so maybe the translator of this text makes Panagoulis seem like a narcissist and the original version, written in Italian, does not have the same cutting choice of words and phrases. After all, I've learned from translator, Franca Scurti Simpson, that translation is an art and not all translators would choose the same path with any given translation task. Unfortunately, neither the author nor the translator are still alive so we are unable to ask them.

So, I've asked several Greeks what they thought of the dictatorship in Greece and their ideas of Panagoulis.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

When Your Dad has Alzheimer's . . .

You watch him deteriorate with a mixture of sadness and frustration. But there is also fear. It's a fear that permeates every bone of your body, and after he's gone, that fear slips to the background, rearing its head now and then. A forgotten name, a missed appointment, lost car keys . . . that's normal, right? But as you age, you count the years between you and that deadline, the one in which you surmise it all began for him   . . . but nobody is really sure when exactly it did begin. After he passes away at the age of 79, mom tells you it was a 20-year disease. He hid it from us all, she says. And I understand this now. Yes, he probably did.

It was very hard for mom to watch him slip into oblivion. She brought him back to Long Island from their home in Florida, hoping to remain, but instead, it turned into a short visit. During that time, dad was hospitalized for a fall he'd taken at my brother's house. By then, he'd already lost most of his ability to communicate. He was often confused and agitated. It was my turn to stay overnight with him at the hospital. When I got there to relieve my sister-in-law, his wrists were tied to the bed to keep him in it. Her face was ashen and she said, "The nurse did it." I took some small scissors from my purse and cut the ties. His hands were free. I quickly reached into my bag and pulled out a salami sandwich. I unwrapped it and put it in his hand. He smiled and began to eat.

But he refused to stay in bed. He got up and walked around and I walked with him, and the nursing staff gently tried to suggest he shouldn't be walking around. I wish I knew the name of that one nurse who came up to us as we shuffled along the corridor. It was way after midnight and she said, "he likes to walk, doesn't he? Okay, then let's walk." And she took his other arm and began to sing, I was walking in the park one day. . .  And dad began to sing along with her. He seemed happy for a few minutes. But the usual agitation soon returned. I think he just wanted to go home . . . wherever that was. He began hitting and yelling and I tried to talk to him. "Please, dad."

Saturday, April 1, 2017

What's in a name?


The Greeks and Italians share a common custom of confusion. It's in the naming of their first-born sons. When the parents of a first-born son follow tradition, that child gets his paternal grandfather's name which means when an extended family gets together for an event, it results in several cousins with the same name, and a scene such as that in the clip above from, My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

In both cultures, the results are some interesting nicknames to distinguish who is who. For example, Grandpa Anthony might have a fifty-something-year-old grandson, Little Anthony, and a thirty-something-year-old GREAT-grandson, Baby Anthony. The nicknames are created to distinguish one from another but somehow once created, become as permanent as cement. In a situation where cousins and extended family have several Anthonys, the nicknames can become quite creative and are often very telling of one's personality or physical features. And sometimes that nickname just comes up because of a momentary situation that never again presents itself but leaves the recipient with that unusual label, thereby changing his identity for eternity. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mom's Marijuana

Mom had six kids. Yeah, okay, so did dad . . . but it was the 1960s & 70s in suburbia America. The U.S. may have been in the midst of women's marches and cries of equal rights, but mom and dad were still children of the 1930s which meant mom was in charge of the kids and dad was in charge of bringing home the bacon . . . for quite a while, anyway.

Some of those six kids, or maybe all of them, were influenced by the marijuana of that time. And one in particular, or maybe several, thought it would be an interesting experiment to try and grow her own plant. However, if one were to start growing a plant in her bedroom closet, there would be a moment in time when she would need to transplant that creation to a healthier environment. Luckily mom also had a garden.

The garden was on the only sunny side of the house and could be seen from the front sidewalk. Mom noticed the tall healthy plant as it grew taller than her tomatoes and she watered it faithfully and weeded around it, waiting to see what type of fruit its purple flowers would yield. That is, until Mr. A. from down the street walked by one evening and stopped to talk to mom as she stood in the middle of her garden watering her plants. Mr. A. was a New York City detective and very knowledgable about many subjects.

A few of us kids were at the kitchen window as we watched the plant ripped from the ground in one full swoop and sail over the fence into a wooded area.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Age of Wisdom?


When exactly is that age of wisdom, I'd like to know. We 1950s children were supposed to be "seen and not heard." Our elders knew best. And yet now that we've reached that frontier, we are no longer the valued wise.

Who needs elders when there is Google?

We are a generation of in-betweens. Sandwiched between young people who cannot grasp the idea of having an agreed-upon meeting place in case they get separated while shopping in the mall, and older people who annoyingly refuse to learn to text. It seems an odd place to be, and yet I wouldn't trade this newer age of technology for any age of wisdom . . . if that were to be the trade off.