Τετάρτη, 5 Δεκεμβρίου 2007

The ice cube and other stories

Hello people,

I don’t think I ever mentioned that following the helpful suggestion of a neighbor, I actually put an ad in a local paper advertising my services as a film director. The neighbor assured me that her daughter had found her current job through that very newspaper – they’d called her the next day! So I took her advice and listed both my cell and home number on the ad.

Bad idea.

Ever since, I have been deluged with indecent proposals, lewd suggestions and bizarre fantasies. Almost every single day, some random guy calls me with offers of a dubious nature, complete with deep-throated voices/sighs. I will list only a few here, to give you an idea.

The first one seemed genuine at first: a deep male voice enquired about my credentials, prior experience, diplomas, etc. I listed my achievements, mentioned filming various genres, dramas, comedies, docs, etc. The man then asked whether we could meet in person so we could discuss the project he had in mind. I asked if he could tell me a little more. He said it was [and I quote] “a different kind of project”.

Immediately becoming a little wary, I asked whether he could be more specific. The vagueness remained. Could we not meet in order to discuss it? I said we could, but I might as well warn him right away that if the project he had in mind was of a pornographic nature, I wasn’t interested.

Well, he said, what he really wanted were pictures. Dead silence. I informed him that I was a director, not a photographer, and he would be best advised to find a professional… He immediately interrupted me: he didn’t want a professional, he said. An amateur would do fine. The photos were of a personal nature and to be used privately.

At which point I said I really didn’t think I was the right person for the job [“But why??...”] and hung up.

The next weirdo decided to text me. While I was peacefully having dinner with my little grandma, I heard the “BEEP” signaling an incoming message and ill advisedly read it at the table. The text read: “God, your friend Elena really destroyed me with her strap-on! It was good!”

“Who was it, sweetie?” My grandma asked. “No one, yaya”, I replied, deleting the offensive message on the spot and trying to resume eating. Five minutes later, another incoming message. It said only: “It hurts.” I erased that one as well.

Yet another 5 minutes later, 3rd message. Deciding I was pretty much done eating, I pushed my plate back and read the text: “God, it was a big one.” Deciding that my policy of ignoring the texts wasn’t working, I furiously punched in: “Who the FUCK are you and why the FUCK should I care what happens to you? Stop texting me.” Although my friends said it was dangerous to respond, it had the desired effect, at least as far as the texts were concerned. I did get a phone call a few days later, where a voice incoherently moaned “I huuurt”, but when I answered that that was of absolutely zero interest to me, the line went dead.

Third weirdo, also via text message: “I am a little ice cube, starting in your mouth, I go inside your bra and then descend into your panties. What should I do next?” Having learned from prior experience that attack was the best defense, I savagely texted: “This is not a sex phone line. You obviously have the wrong number, you pathetic twerp.” That ended those texts.

Then there were the inventive ones: “We’re calling from Mode Magazine. You have won 300 Euros. All you need to do is answer a few questions about fashion. Do you wear mini skirts? Do you wear tight pants? Do you often wear transparent clothing?” When he got to “What’s the most provocative outfit you’ve ever worn? We need details”, switching from the polite ‘plural’ form to the everyday ‘singular’ form in his excitement, I finally smelled a rat and asked what kind of questions were those – at which point he hung up.

I was so furious I actually redialed him [the moron hadn’t even bothered calling from a hidden number]. I am not quite sure what I intended to say to him. Probably just random insults. He initially picked up, but immediately started dialing another number, obviously not noticing I was on the line. He hung up, and after that the line was constantly busy. Unbelievable, I thought. Apparently, this guy had nothing better to do all day than dial random women, whose numbers he probably picked up from that very same newspaper.

Another fun one was the guy who wanted me to film him and his wife having sex with 3 other couples. “I’m very sorry, but I’m not interested.” “You don’t understand, you wouldn’t have to participate, just film us.” [Apparently, THAT shouldn’t be a problem for anyone.] “No thanks.” “But why?” “Because my career aspirations do not include filming sordid orgies.” End of that call.

I’ll skip through the following days of weirdos. I’m still getting some, even though the ad was taken off 3 weeks ago. This should make Americans feel better: not all sex maniacs live in the US. At least half of them seem to be in Greece.



Jim G:
An interesting way to meet people, n'est ce pas? Maybe I should try something like that here... um... ok, maybe not.

Cory M:
Makes you sort of wonder what kind of job your neighbor's daughter got.

John T:
Sex maniacs? I thought we were naive Puritans? Well... not me personally, but... you know.

Mik H:
So, no booty calls in Greece, just indecent proposals?

Πέμπτη, 29 Νοεμβρίου 2007

Good things about Greece - Part 2

But first of all, a disclaimer: when I mentioned “booty calls” in a previous email, I meant of course the random ones, from people you barely know, yet who think it’s ok to call at 2 in the morning after you’ve exchanged a total of roughly 4 sentences. I’m sure there may be “booty calls” between people who have a history, even in Greece.

Now, on to more good stuff.

1. Your neighbors constantly ply you with food, offering loukoumades and various sweets, bringing a cake or cookies to your place, for no special reason.

2. You actually know your neighbors. You hang out with them. You should try it in L.A., it’s fun. Here, neighbors can be relied on to bring you your mail if they wake up before you, check on your grandma when you’re not there and help you move a couch several floors up. They even invite you to spend New Year’s Eve with them. Did I mention my neighbors of South Cloverdale for the most part conspicuously ignored me if I dared say “Hi” to them?

3. The sea is so clean that people fish octopus and squids out of the sea every day, next to where you’re swimming. [Of course, the bad part is they kill them in front of you, especially the octopus, which they repeatedly bash against the rocks because it makes the flesh tender – otherwise they would be pretty inedible.]

4. The Parliament guards don’t look scary. [See photo. They are supposedly the best of the best, but how do you feel threatened by a guy with pompoms on his shoes? I particularly like the pigeon, obviously oblivious of the danger.]

5. The building manager lives in the building, so if you need a bulb or anything fixed, he’ll usually come and do it himself the same day. [Regardless if he grumbles about it.]

6. If there is no parking spot, you can still park – just leave the car anywhere. I know I already mentioned the no tickets part, but think also of the time saved! No riding around the block forty times in the hope that some other looser will leave! No walking 20 blocks because there was no other place to leave the bloody car! Just park right on the front step if you want and go about your business. If it’s a really bad spot, the hazards lights may be left on, for the entire day if necessary.

7. If you are lost, you can always ask the people in the car beside you - unlike in L.A., they always open their window instead of looking at you like you're a bug.

8. Restaurants still serve food way after 10 pm.

9. People rarely ever go to bed before 1 or 2 am, so even during the week parties and outings never end at 11 pm, like in some sad places I shall not name.

10. Although most TV badly sucks, there is a TON of excellent theater here, mostly totally indie/guerrilla productions that take place in abandoned warehouses and the like.

11. People are usually much more socially/politically engaged and savvy than in the US. They know what's going on in other countries, they care, and they are trying to change it. Pinochet and the likes of him are not forgotten.

12. At the risk of losing half my readers, I will mention that the Greeks realize there are worse evils than communism/socialism.

Finally, let me mention my grandma again, if only for the pearls of wisdom mixed with total wackiness that she often displays.

The other day, I made the mistake of mentioning to my grandma that I am still going swimming almost every day. She was horrified. In this weather? She stuttered. Grandma, I said, it’s 16 degrees Celsius outside. [For those of you who count in Fahrenheit, multiply by 2 and add 32 to that. You should get a rough estimate.]

Then I did worse. When she asked, tremulously, whether I went swimming ALL ALONE, I replied that there were always several grandpas and grandmas there as well. “You see?” She said, as if it made perfect sense. “You shouldn’t go there anymore. It’s dangerous.”

I wasn’t quite sure whether she meant that exposing my young flesh in their midst might trigger a savage attack from the grandpas and/or grandmas, or whether she thought that what clearly wasn’t harming said grandpas/grandmas would prove fatal for my younger constitution.

Sometimes I think those moments make it all worthwhile.
Mun Chee Y:
Yes, the guard looks very cute and adorable.
Chris H:
Another great email, among the top two, even if you slighted your former South Cloverdale neighbors.
Efterpi C:
Certainly, there are always the blessings we tend to overlook when we are in our home countries. I´m glad you mention the good things about Greece. Reminded me that I also have a list of good things about Venezuela, the kind of things that deep inside you don´t want to give up, even though you dream of running away!
John T:
Hey, I need my beauty sleep!

Τετάρτη, 21 Νοεμβρίου 2007

A day in the life

All right folks,

I’ve decided to describe an average day here, along with pictures and even videos... [I know, I'm spoiling you.]

7.30 am: be woken up by a typical ambulating van offering in a melodious voice to gather your old stuff [see? That’s why Greeks never do yard sales – apart from the fact that they would find it demeaning to try to sell anything for a measly $2].

7.33 am: Go back to sleep.

7.49 am: be woken up again by another ambulating van, this time selling carpets. Decide you might as well get up. (Click on Exhibits A & B to have the pleasure to see and hear the vans in action. The 2nd one says: "I have carpets for your living room, your kitchen, your dining room. Come and choose them...") [Seriously? The kitchen? There's one place I thought I didn't need a carpet.]

8.30 am: Spend ½ hour gossiping with the neighbor on your way down to your grandma’s apartment.

10.00 am: After breakfast, decide to walk the 25 mn to the post office, considering it’s a nice day yet too cold to swim, even for you.

10.15 am: Encounter interesting people and picturesque places along the way, such as this one [Exhibits 1 & 2].

Now, I’ll give you 3 guesses as to what function this building serves. Could it be an abandoned insane asylum? No, wait, there are clothes hanging on the balcony. An orphanage from the Ceausescu days? A low-income housing project? Does this look like it could be a functioning hospital?? Yet that’s what it is.

Well, maybe “functioning” isn’t exactly the right term for it. After all, that’s where my mother had the misfortune to be sent after our car crash – they did manage to put her femur back 37 degrees off, so that she had to have it broken again 1 year later (in Belgium this time, where doctors usually take measurements BEFORE surgery) in order to set her leg straight.

I was fortunate enough that there was no face/jaw specialist for me at that state hospital, so that they had to send me to an exorbitantly priced private clinic, where they did repair my 5 face fractures very well, I must say, and put my arm back exactly where it belonged. Imagine the Picasso I would have become had the state hospital been in charge of my face…

Now, I know that the US are just as bad as Greece as far as state vs. private hospitals are concerned. I remember hearing that horrifying story about the woman who agonized on the ER’s floor while the doctors and nurses ignored her and the police tried to arrest her. Fortunately for her, she died before they could send her to jail. Thank god for small mercies.

However, the US has a history of putting commercial interests before the good of the people, whereas Greece has supposedly been ruled by a socialist government these past 20 years (it’s only 4 years ago that they changed back to the center-right). How does a socialist government justify the fact that if anything should happen to you, your choices are either being bankrupt or being butchered?

Moving on, let’s continue that pleasant walk.

10.30 am: Arrive at the post office, [which is the only one I know where they sell religious icons as well as stamps - please see Exhibit 3], wait in line for roughly 45 minutes [a good day] while various old people jostle to cut in front of everyone.

11.15 am: Mail a couple of letters [or rather, buy stamps which they will make you glue on yourself, the old-fashioned way - observe Exhibit 4], pay your grandma’s bills and be looked at weirdly because you’re the only one to ask for a receipt.

11.30 am: Start on the way back home, make friends with some errant dogs [Exhibit 5 - the name tags don’t mean they belong to someone, but that the city council has had them neutered, etc.].

11.52 am: Walk by the police station and narrowly avoid getting arrested before finally getting home around 12.35 pm.

What’s that? You’d like to know why I was almost arrested? It’s all your fault, guys. There I was, peacefully taking pictures of various things I thought I might add to my newsletters [as some of you requested], when I happened upon the police station. For some reason, I thought it might be interesting to show you and snapped a picture of the entrance.

I had barely taken 5 steps when an authoritative male voice yelled: “Hey, you! Come back here!” I didn’t immediately connect the dots. When I heard “Miss, come back here RIGHT NOW!!!” I turned around and realized I was the one being thus addressed. The man [clearly a plainclothes officer who had just made his catch of the day] said: “It is forbidden to photograph a police station. Follow me.” I stared at him in disbelief and laughed, but he wasn’t kidding.

Marching me inside the police station, he made me step into an office, where 2 officials stared me down. “What are you taking pictures for? Don’t you know it is illegal to photograph police stations and army bases??” I replied I knew about army bases, of course, but it seemed a little pointless about police stations, considering they are public offices and they were after all in plain view – I didn’t think they had anything to hide.

“What if you are planning to come back and bomb us?” He asked, very seriously. Again, I laughed, but he wasn’t amused either. “Go up to the chief’s office”, he barked. The plainclothes officer marched me upstairs and into the chief’s office. Even though his expression clearly said this was no laughing matter, I couldn’t stop.

The chief was on the phone and unaware of the gravity of my crime. After a while, he asked why I was here. The officer told him about the incriminating photograph. I tried to look suitably chastised. The chief, a true Greek, sighed in his mustache. “Don’t you know it’s forbidden to photograph police stations and army bases?” He asked. I said I now knew, but hadn’t when I snapped the picture. Why did I take that picture anyway? He asked.

So for the next 15 minutes, I found myself answering questions and basically telling my whole life to this police chief: the newsletters relating my life in Greece [“Why the police station?” “I thought it might be interesting for them…” “Why?” – at which point I didn’t really have an answer for him], my move from Los Angeles, my MFA in Film Production, my Greek mother and Italian father and being born in Belgium.

Finally, unable to think of any other mitigating circumstances for my crime, I offered to show him the picture. He stared at the view of the entrance, nodding thoughtfully. Finally, apparently deeming that it didn’t represent a threat to the Hellenic police [sounds so much better than Greek police, doesn’t it?], he handed back my camera and waved me out.

I was sorely tempted to ask him if I could have my picture taken with him for my next newsletter, but thought I shouldn’t push my luck and quickly walked out before someone decided to lock me up. After all, if I was almost arrested for photographing the entrance of a Hellenic police station, who knew what penalty I faced for taking the picture of a Hellenic police chief?

Still. This photograph almost cost me my freedom. That is how dedicated I am in trying to keep you people informed. I hope you appreciate it. I proudly present Exhibit 6: THE DANGEROUS TERRORIST PHOTOGRAPH...



Aaron T:
The police station looks like an apartment builing in Santa Monica. Perhaps they should have a sign that says no photography. Oooh please, can we have a picture of a military base next... Man, glad to hear you made it out without incarceration.


Oh, and one more good thing...

...There is no such thing as a "booty call" in Greece.

Men here understand that unless they take the time to talk to you for at least a couple of hours and maybe even - gasp - take you out, things don't usually go any further.



Janeen L:
Sorry to hear that... ;-)

Mik H:
Uh-huh. Suuuuuure.
They just call it a "brutey call".

Diane Lisa J:
"a couple of hours"
wow those are some high standards.

John T:
Oh, well, then... count me out.

Greg H:
I'm never moving to Greece. That's bullshit.

Δευτέρα, 19 Νοεμβρίου 2007

The good, the weird and the endearing.

1. View of the city from the Acropolis
2. XIth century church in the center of Athens
3. Athens by night (that's the Acropolis at the top and the temple of Olympian Zeus on the left)
4. Green Greece (the little black squares on roofs are sun panels)
5. View from my Athens apartment
6. View from my Nafplio apartment (it's a Venetian fortress from the XVIIth century, people)
November 19th, 2007

All right people,

I’ve thought of more positive things to say about Greece, for those who because of me now recoil in horror at the mere mention of the country. (Apart from the fact that I’m hopefully keeping you guys entertained.)

1. Well, there is the fact that my "yaya" (= Greek for grandma) is here... I'm sort of partial to her.

2. I have a pretty nice view from my balconies, both in Athens and in Nafplio. Not to mention, the light tends to be gorgeous. I didn't have a balcony in L.A. And even if I had, the view wasn't that great – especially when the neighbors were having a yard sale with their old shoes on top of the pile.

3. The fact that it’s sunny most of the year, even during the winter, means a lot of households use solar energy. [Dear Schwarzie, you might want to try it for California...] In my area at least, most houses have solar panels on their roofs. I know some people think those are ugly, but they’re ecologically friendly – Gore will love you. And if you don’t care about that, think about how much money you save: since I’ve been here, I have only turned the water heater on 3 times. The rest of the time, the sun was enough to heat my entire apartment and I didn’t spend a dime.

4. I swear the vegetables and fruit taste different – as in: better. In fact, so do most meats. I don’t know if it’s less pollution (hmm… maybe not in Athens), or less pesticides/a more natural way of growing things or what, but things here taste good! (Or maybe it’s just my grandma’s way of cooking.)

5. I can drink tap water. No, not like in L.A. I don’t mean that metallic, weird-tasting thing that they serve you in restaurants. I mean GOOD water that we actually put in bottles and straight in the fridge – no need for filters, lemon slices, nor anything to disguise the taste.

6. That same water is also good for my skin and hair – I look a ton healthier here than in L.A., where the corrosive water savagely attacks my skin and makes my hair look like a mop.

7. Did I mention I’m still swimming? In the SEA? I get to exercise every day for free. My favorite part is getting undressed and walking into the sea in my bikini while passersby in their winter coats look at me like I’m INSANE.

8. I actually get into meetings with the top executives of TV and film companies. They talk to me like a human being (even if they later disappear into thin air). They have all watched my film/read what I wrote and actually compliment me on it. [Granted, a fat lot of good that does me so far, but at least you get the impression for a fleeting moment that something might happen. Actually, this is increasingly starting to sound like Hollywood…]

9. I don’t have to worry about waking a friend up if I call at 11 pm.

10. Almost daily, people call me up and say let’s meet for coffee/a movie/dinner in half an hour – or they simply ring my doorbell and tell me to come downstairs and join them.

11. There are gorgeous antiquities everywhere I look – and I don’t mean my grandma. [Apologies for that cheap joke – everyone’s allowed to slip.]

12. There are stray dogs everywhere – but they are friendly and don’t disturb anyone. Most people give them a few scraps of food and a kind word, as they do for stray cats. [Granted, for those allergic to animals that’s rather bad news.]

13. You can get away with practically anything by flirting. Parking ticket? Give your nicest smile to the police officer, he’ll usually let it slide – or give your ticket to the next unfortunate male driver. [Actually, this works for guys too, if the cop's a girl.] No money for the train? Bat your eyelashes and someone will usually come up with the change. That brings us to the next point:

14. Greeks aren’t usually stingy. If the price of your groceries is $5.20 – they’ll be happy with $5. Of course, if you’re due 5 cents in change, you better not expect them either. But if you don’t have $3 for a cart at the airport, someone will usually give them to you.

15. Old people are (usually) treated with the utmost respect. There are very few of them in retirement homes – mostly, Greek families are closely knit and stick together. That means taking care of senile grandma themselves – and of course letting your kids live at home until they’re 40 and/or get married. [This part I like less.] But that also means few homeless people and/or mad rambling old grandpas in the streets.

16. One of the very best parts: I can park wherever I want and not have to worry about those BLOODY parking tickets. Corner? Red zone? Yellow zone? Residential permit? Fire hydrant? Cleaning street days? Only allowed to park here for ½ an hour or until 6 pm? Never heard of those here. Parking meter? They tried to install them in my area a couple of years ago – the people were so pissed off the city had to remove them within a couple of months. Park on the pedestrian crossing? Sure. Park on the sidewalk? Even better. Hell, most days, there isn’t even enough space to double park here – one must triple or quadruple park.

17. One word, people: LOUKOUMADES. I know the non-Greeks have no idea what I'm talking about. But it's simply the best desert in the world, and I've never found it outside of Greece.
18. You can scream at people and they'll still speak to you the next day.

19. You can give the middle finger to people while driving – they may curse you, but there is no risk of anyone pulling out a gun.

20. For those of you who know her, I now have the proof that whether in the US or in Greece, Amalia Giannikou only ever drives Beetles.

See? Don’t you wish you were in Greece right now?
Kostantinos K:
21. Albanian lovers everywhere ?
ok ok ok that was very cheap :-) but as you say, everyone's allowed to slip...
Your description of people's reactions - and of the biliardadiko scene - was excellent... Ti na pei kaneis?
Trent J:
Went to the Santa Monica Swim center yesterday and thought how nice it must be to swim in the Aegean without a wetsuit. Keep the stories comin'.
Marc G:
I agree that fruit and meat and everything else tastes different, at least it did in Italy... My guess is that they let things ripen on the vine instead of rot in the store.
I most differ on the dog thing though... I think dogs need people, and vice versa. Finally, as the Beatles say, Giannikous are the same wherever you go. Miss you two and your wonderful continent.

Παρασκευή, 16 Νοεμβρίου 2007

The scarlett letter

Nov. 16th 2007

Hello people!

OK, so just this once, I will break my “don’t kiss and tell” rule – mainly because you guys will never meet the parties involved – and because this was just too funny not to share. Some of you know parts of the story already, but bear with me. Hopefully no one will be shocked by my wanton behavior.

When I first got to Greece, I briefly dated a guy from Nafplio (the Peloponnesus city my grandma is from, remember? We have an apartment there). I knew he was younger than me, thinking he was about 23. After we’d been dating a little while, I discovered he was actually 19. Yes, 19. As in, not allowed to drink in the US.

Anyway, deciding I shouldn’t be narrow-minded, I decided to disregard that fact. I obviously knew it was not destined to be a long-term relationship, but I rather liked the guy (not to mention he was hot – there, I just proved how shallow I am). Anyway, after a couple of months that relationship ran its course.

[Soon after, I felt a Carrie Bradshaw-like impulse to write a list of reasons why that was a good thing. I’ll spare you the full list, but among others they include:

#3. He felt the need to explain the punch line of every joke
#9. He thought James Dean was a brand]

Now, interestingly enough, the most shocking thing for my Greek friends was not that he was 19, but that he was ALBANIAN!!!!!!!!!!!!
What? EEEeeew! One of those sleazy mafia guys? The sneaky type that sell you tissues at every stop light while stealing your purse/selling drugs to minors/robbing banks/killing babies and eating them?!?!?!?

Of course, they didn’t say that out loud, but it was all in THE LOOK they gave me. One of my favorite comments? “You should be careful. I’m not racist, but Albanians don’t think like us. You know. They don’t respect women and all.” To quote one of you guys: it’s good to know there’s no serious racism in Greece.

But one of the best parts was my grandma. I hadn’t told her about this guy, but my mother knew I was dating him, so we got into the habit of discussing said guy when having lunch, since my grandma has a tendency to focus all her attention on the TV – which she leaves almost perpetually on with some obnoxious “news” playing.

A word of explanation is necessary here: “News”, for Greek TV stations, has widely differing definitions. The state channels tend to have the same broad definition as most Western countries: a general attempt at informing people about what’s going on locally and – hopefully – internationally. But my grandma’s favorite channels, a.k.a. those that support HER political party, [yes, people here watch TV according to political views, not what they actually want to watch] – those have different ideas.

They basically consist of a presenter inviting several “guests” from opposing political parties and [as far as I can tell] various random guys [who all clearly think they are SOMEONE IMPORTANT] to participate in the show [Oops, sorry: “news”].

Those people are usually shown in several different small windows on the screen, [sometimes as many as 12 – imagine the size of those windows on our tiny TV screen] and the “news” go something like this: the presenter asks a question to which he/she doesn’t really need an answer, it’s just the bait that basically allows all the guests to start screaming at each other.

Those debates tackle such crucial questions as: “Does the fact that someone spilled his coffee on the leader of the opposition represent a terrorist act and is a dangerous attack on democracy – or did the man slightly overreact in his assessment of the situation?” [And the best speech of the year award goes to: “This coffee spilling represents an attempt to silence the truth and is a direct attack on freedom of speech…”] Other pressing matters include: “Should the leader of the opposing party have greeted the main party leader first, or the other way around?” Etc.

This goes on for about an hour: none of the guests listens to what the others have to say, instead they all try to yell louder than the others, trying to be heard above the general din – which of course is an impossibility. That makes for rather unpleasant background noise.

So anyway, my mother and I thought my grandma was completely absorbed in her “news”, which is why I was taken completely by surprise when my grandma turned to me one day and said: “You shouldn’t listen to your mother about guys.” [That in itself was rather an interesting statement, I thought – but I’ll explore it some other day.]

“What guys?” I asked. “The Albanian one”, she replied. “Who told you about that?” I asked, half amazed, half amused. “Well, you certainly didn’t!” She huffed. “Talking in French with your mother, you think I don’t understand? Or maybe you think I’m senile?” I assured her that of course we didn’t think she was senile, we just thought she wasn’t paying attention.

“Anyway”, she said, “I know everything. Even that he’s Albanian.” Thinking I sensed a typical Greek reluctance, I asked: “And does it bother you that he’s Albanian, grandma?” She turned to me, very solemn: “No. I swear to you. I wouldn’t care even if he was Turkish.”

By that time, I was laughing so hard I had trouble asking my next question: “Why, are Turks worse than Albanians?” “Of course”, my sweet, not-wanting-to-be-yet-being-racist grandma very seriously answered. “But if it makes you happy, then I don’t care.” I would have hugged her if I hadn’t been driving.

But let’s get back to the Ex.

We had recently broken up, and I was back in Nafplio to tackle some of those never-ending renovations to the house [it’s been 2 ½ years, folks. Greece. That’s all I have to say.] One of the workers asked me if I was staying long. [He was a friend of the Ex, by the way – I know, this is starting to sound like an episode of the O.C.]

Having never spent my holidays in Nafplio until recently, I know only 1 or 2 people in the area, so I said I was preparing to go back to Athens. He [we’ll call him Nice Guy] said he was going out with some friends [for coffee at 10 pm – those people are insane, I tell you], and I could join them if I felt like it. I thought that would be a great way to meet more people in Nafplio, and agreed.

When 10.30 pm came, so did Nice Guy. [See? Lack of punctuality is not just a Greek thing – it’s also an Albanian thing! I feel so much better now.] Dressed to the nines, he sort of stuttered that his friends couldn’t make it. So I suddenly found myself on what looked suspiciously like a “date” with the guy.

While we were having “coffee” (a slightly stronger drink for me – to brace for what I felt was to come), I discovered that Nice Guy had just turned 18. Yes, as in barely legal. [In my defense, none of those guys look their age.] Anyway, smiling politely, I furiously sipped my drink while calculating that at this rate, by the same time next year I’d be dating 12-year-olds.

I decided I might as well enjoy myself, so I asked him where we could play pool. He took me to “the best place in town” [considering there must be 5 places in all of Nafplio, not that difficult] and we started playing.

Suddenly, a blast of cold air announced a new arrival – and that’s when a time-warp happened and I stepped into a scene from “Grease”. I knew the newcomer [we’ll call him Poser] because he had gone out a couple of times with the Ex and me. Poser was dressed entirely in black, wearing his hair Travolta-style and an attitude to match. He was also followed by a couple of suitably dour-looking henchmen.

Spotting me playing pool with Nice Guy, Poser did a double take, looking from him to me in a very territorial way. [What was HIS FRIEND’S BROAD doing with ANOTHER MAN?!] Curtly nodding in my direction, he said: “Where’s X ?” [Meaning the Ex, you must follow, people.] I replied that I had no idea and he should know better than me.

That’s when he gave me THE LOOK. Even though I’d never been at the receiving end of this particular look so far in my life, I recognized it immediately: it was the look reserved for women of little or no virtue. With a sinking feeling mixed with unexpected glee, I realized I had now become THE SLUT OF NAFPLIO.

Soon after, Nice Guy and I left to go dancing. I thought the damage was done anyway, I might as well savor the tantalizing waves of wantonness that apparently now emanated from me. I thought I could totally handle an 18-year-old – he wouldn’t dare try anything.

Unfortunately, the 18-year-old had other ideas and I had to gently let him down. [“Does it bother you that I’m 18?” “Of course not!”] He sighed and said that maybe with a little time…?

I suddenly had a horrifying vision of all the teenage males of Nafplio rushing to my doorstep in an unending procession, eager to take a shot at the older Athenian floozy, and decided to call it a night.



Jim P G:
Yeah, that's a color that looks good on you. :)

Amy T:
Whoo hooo! Hot times in Greece!!! Love it.

Christine L:
I hope that you are keeping copies of all your emails for your soon to be LOL bestseller, "My Adventures in Greece." You are crazy if you don't turn your experiences into a memoir. The things that you are experiencing are right out of an absurd alternate universe.

Aaron T:
And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson.....
You Athenian Tart you. Great Story.

François D:
You should be a writer. I mean a novel writer...! You're really good, like seriously good...

Cory M:
All this and you still won't tell me who booty called you in grad school?
Also, my first unattributed quote! Yes!
And your grandmother sounds very sweet.

Will M:
Well, if this new 18-year-old is a nice guy, why not have some fun, right?

Greg H:
I have a friend that works at a junior high school. I can have him hook you up. HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was this close /-/ to replying to all on this one!!!! Love me because I didn't.

Παρασκευή, 9 Νοεμβρίου 2007


November 7th, 2007

Hello people,

After my updates about the Greek citizenship, here are the updates about the job.

But first, due to recent complaints by some readers about the negativity and solemn vows by others that they will NEVER set foot in Greece after reading all this, let me repeat once again that Greeks LOVE tourists - just not their own people. One of the greatest countries in the world to visit - just don't plan on settling here.
The Greeks themselves keep telling me: "You should only come here on vacation." A lot of them think I'm crazy for wanting to live here - yet see? Here I am nonetheless, staying on despite all my grumbling. There's something about this country. Pisses me off, can't leave it.

Second, I am still swimming in that gorgeous sea. Granted, it is quite a bit colder now, but still sunny and the sea is still turquoise and "like oil", like they say here. (No, that doesn't mean there's some disgusting black film on it, it means it's calm and peaceful.) Yes, I am proud to say I have become one of these mad winter swimmers I used to admire so much.

Third and certainly not least, the men are generally hotter - and more forward than in the US. (Sorry guys, but a girl likes to feel desired... ; ))

OK, back to business, my business being whining.

In a country where people tell you to go out for lunch at 4 pm and for coffee at 9 pm, where shops close most days between 2.30 and 5.30 pm for the inescapable siesta, time during which they cut off the water as well during the summer, in order to save water, (how many times I've gotten into the shower and found myself with my hair full of shampoo and suddenly no water to rinse it with…) in this country, I say, where people are allowed to make noise between 7 am and 11 pm, but nevertheless always find a way to make noise outside of those times, [preferably construction work right outside your window, or drum rehearsal in the backyard – I'm not naming any names, but my neighbors are hairless dogs], a country where the TV Guide announces a program starting at 8 pm which never starts before 8.30, sometimes never appearing at all [no explanation given], the same country where people [in the film industry at least] rarely go to work before noon, where lunch breaks can take up to 3 hours and coffee breaks another 2, in this country where plumbers and electricians tell you they'll be over to resolve your most recent disaster sometime next Thursday or maybe Friday, sometime between 8 am and 5 pm, where you call friends to go out tomorrow night and they reply, incredulous: "You want to set this up NOW?! Let's talk tomorrow around 8 pm!" – you quickly realize that in order to adapt, you must accept that nothing is ever set for sure and that time does not exist.

This is the land of maybe, might and possibly.

So I was more or less patiently waiting for my job to begin. Until last week, when I got an even more brutal awakening to Greek reality than I had so far.

Let's recapitulate the facts. My boss told me first in April-May, and then again in August that I would get one episode of his new series to direct. He said I would get to pick a script and then directed me to the head of physical production to get more info, get acquainted with the way things worked, etc.

The head of physical production gave me some already shot scripts to read and told me there were no scripts at present for me to choose from. When would there be scripts? She had no idea. Who was responsible for that? Not her. After almost 1 month of this, I decided to write 2 proposals of my own, thinking that if there were no scripts, I might as well write one myself.

Said proposals were submitted, but after a couple of weeks the head of physical production suddenly revealed that I would never be allowed to write a script in any case, as only the writers from the TV station were allowed to do so. Best-case scenario, they might select one of my proposals and have someone else write it.

Taking that in my stride, I then asked her whether we now had an inkling about when scripts might be coming in, wondering aloud when the series was supposed to air. [Bear in mind that I had been calling regularly over the last 2 months to inquire.] That is when she coldly said to me: "Oh, we have scripts. I've been giving them to our 2 directors." Completely taken aback, I then asked her what about giving me a script to direct. She said of course she couldn't do anything without a direct order from my boss, and I should talk to him directly.

I said I would and hung up, utterly confused. This was a completely new story than what she had been telling me up to now. Had she been willfully telling me there were no scripts while giving them to her director pals [as some of my more suspicious friends asserted], and was now hiding behind the boss? Why else would he send me to her if not to work? She knew quite well I was there with the intent to direct – didn't she? Why was she now acting as though it was the first she had heard of such a preposterous idea?

That's when the Greek ideas of guilt and doom brought on oneself started pouring in, mostly from well-intending friends and family members: maybe I had somehow offended her? Had I been presumptuous somehow in mentioning I came from L.A.? Maybe I should have downplayed it or downright not mentioned it? Had I seemed overly sure of myself? Had I not been humble enough in deferring to her great wisdom??

After 2 months of Greek reality, anything suddenly seemed possible. I tried to think back on what could have happened. Was all this somehow my fault? Was it the time I had asked about the budget per episode? She had looked at me in disbelief and scoffed that she couldn't POSSIBLY tell me THAT! At which point I had looked at her in utter disbelief myself, asking how one could possibly direct a TV episode without knowing what one had to spend? Or maybe it was the time I asked about what type of filming and lighting equipment the company used, when she scoffed that I CERTAINLY didn't need to know about THAT?

Or was it simply that my boss never actually did give the order – or had even simply changed his mind about giving an episode to a rookie? After all, I had been trying to get another appointment with him for the past month, but he had become completely unavailable. Was it possible he had simply left the unpleasant task of dealing with the young director wannabe to his underling?

For a brief moment I even considered the possibility that I was delusional. Maybe I had imagined the whole thing? Maybe the Greek reality had finally gotten to me and I was starting to see and hear things. Wishful dreams of a benevolent boss telling me I would get to direct TV and actually have some control over the production – this had to be a figment of my imagination. Maybe if I concentrated I could simply go on living in that fantasy world, go on to direct my imaginary episode – or even a whole slew of them, and be happy ever after. It was a tempting thought.

But then I remembered my friend, the head of physical production's assistant, telling me that she had actually told him herself that the boss liked my work and wanted me to bring a more modern touch to the show, a less classical way of doing things. Throwing away the shrouds of self-doubt and deprecation, I told myself I would somehow get to the bottom of this.

But this left me in a particularly difficult position., as I didn't want to implicate her, nor did I want to offend anyone. Still, I had been promised a job, had in fact been waiting for it for over 2 months while sponging off my folks and not only did I need some money, I needed to work, as the risk of my mother and I killing each other augmented with each one of my idle days.

So I did it the Greek way, even though every fiber of my being rebelled against it: I finally asked my friend, a.k.a. my boss's nephew, to do me a favor and speak to his uncle for me. All I asked for was an appointment, so I could find out what was going on. He said he would talk to him and get back to me. I'm waiting to hear from him.

Those of you who are believers, please pray for me. Those who aren't, please burn voodoo dolls or something. I could use any help, right now.



Cory M:
Laura, I'm pulling for you, one hundred percent all the way. And I'm thinking all the positive thoughts I can and directing them your way. But these people... I want to kill them!!!! They're making me insane -- from five thousand miles away! I hope that if they keep giving you the run around like this that you say screw it and move on to something better. They really don't deserve you.

Mik H:
So, when ya coming back here?

Ramjasha R:
Just let me know what u need. I can leave a bloody top page of a script in his bed or sodomize his man servant.

Τρίτη, 30 Οκτωβρίου 2007

The rematch

October 30, 2007

Hello, beautiful people!

I know I have been very remiss lately in sharing my latest Greek news with you. A lot has happened, quite a bit of it bad, some of it that leaves some room for hope, and most of it ridiculous and crazy as only the Greeks can do it, of course.

First of all, my Greek nationality is still pending. But first, I must tell you about THE REMATCH…

A few weeks ago, I went back to the office of the “Surround” in order to try once again to get my case submitted for approval. You see, in case you guys didn’t quite get this part, all my efforts of the last 10 years didn’t even get me as far as submitting – they always sent me back for more documents, so that my case was never actually under consideration.

I had always assumed that state employees simply didn’t want to go through the effort of submitting/reviewing my case, but lately my perspective has shifted. After seeing all the effort that goes into devising cunning new ways to send me away, one cannot help but realize it would clearly have been less effort for them to simply tackle my case from the first.

Therefore, I have come up with a couple of possible explanations:

a) It is a kind of sport for them – possibly complete with bets between employees as to which one will manage to do the less work/send the more people away/drive the more people insane
b) They simply, honestly have no idea what they are doing and assume that by not doing anything, they are keeping themselves free of blame
c) They just hate my guts on sight
[I have a problem with this last one, but one must face the possible truth, after all, since my Greek friends insist that THEY never have problems like ME and that I’m the ONLY one who EVER reports such dysfunctional occurrences.]

The Greeks of course have other theories:

d) It is a conspiracy from the opposing party to unseat the current government
[I don’t really see how that would work, but knowing the intricacies of Greek politics, I’m sure there’s a perfectly Greek explanation for it.]
e) The employees are expecting a bribe.

This one almost seems too easy for Greek reality. What, hand in a bribe and all your problems go away? How un-Greek. One must suffer to accomplish anything. After all that’s the whole point of living: suffering. Right?

Also, I would never do that, simply on principle. Call me crazy, but I refuse to bribe people to do their job – even though I know that bribes are a perfectly normal way of conducting even the simplest everyday task here.

After all, this is the only EU country I know where you need to bribe your surgeon to make sure you get better service. But mostly, it is the only country I know of that doesn’t even feel the need for shame at this corruption, much less the need to change things: one minister once went on TV and actually delivered the following speech: “Come on, guys. Take your bribes, but let’s not overdo it, OK?”

Some of my Greek friends actually use this as an example of how honest Greeks are: “You see?” They say. “No one denies there is corruption! A least we’re not lying about it.”
Oh, sure. My heart swells with pride at the thought.

But let’s get back to the Surround.

I went there at 8 am, as I had done in the past, expecting to get a number and then come back around 1.30pm in the hopes of seeing an employee before closing time at 2pm. Unfortunately, the system had just changed: we now had to come at 11.30 am, at which time they would start letting people in right away.

Thinking I had a few hours to kill, I went for a stroll and had breakfast on one of the gorgeous squares in the area. Coming back a little before 11 am, I realized there were now 20 people sitting haphazardly on the stairs or the floor.

Having no idea who was first or last, I simply stood there and waited, striking a conversation with a Scottish woman who was also trying to get her Greek nationality through her mother. She lived 5 hours away and had to go home that same night, but one can only apply for citizenship in person, in Athens, in this one office.

A little after 11.30, by which time our numbers had grown to roughly 50 people, an employee came down with little numbers that he started handing out, saying only the first 14 people would be allowed in, then another 14, and that would probably be it for the day.

That’s when the melee began: everyone rushed forward, suddenly remembering they were first, no me, I was before you, because I was after that lady with the hat, and who were you behind? Because I distinctly remember you weren’t there when I arrived. Of course I was, and who do you think you are, calling me a liar?!

Of course it was impossible to tell, and the Surround employee, after half-heartedly berating us for not respecting the first-come first-served rule and being unruly, simply shrugged and started handing the numbers to whomever had the longest reach.

Seeing a mustachioed old man trying to slink his way past me, I instantly moved to block his path, but he skillfully evaded me – he’d obviously had a lot of practice. Forced to stand behind him, I eventually got the number 19, ensuring that I would at least get in to see someone, and probably proving that I had also managed to steal someone’s spot.

In the same melee, we climbed the stairs to the 2nd floor, where the offices were located, and had to wait for another hour while the first batch of 14 people went in. There was almost a slight incident when the people behind, forced to wait on the staircase as there was no room on the tiny landing, started pushing forward and were rewarded by the people in front pushing just as hard backwards so as not to be crushed against the wall; one tiny man almost went over the railing, but a couple of strong guys managed to right him up before we had a live remake of “Vertigo”.

When my time finally came to go in, I was directed to one of 4 offices, but having previously experienced the paperwork-stealing hysterical woman of office number 1 [whom you probably remember], I pretended I didn’t hear the guard and slipped into the 2nd office. The good think about Greece is that no one came after me to order me into my assigned office.

Sitting in front of this new woman, I proudly showed her my letter from the Ministry of the Interior [although carefully holding on to it in case she decided this was WRONG and had to be shredded], pointing out to her the “IT IS A POSSIBILITY” line and the various required docs, which I proceeded to lay on the table in front of her.

But she was already shaking her head. No, she said. I was still missing the following documents – and she proceeded to list 8 docs, most of which had to come straight from Brussels, since that is where I was born.

Notice that not only had she also managed to once again refuse considering my case, she actually managed to set me back several months, since I would need to fly to Brussels to gather all these docs, have them translated by an official translator in Athens [“But some of these have already been translated by an official translator!” “Yes, but that was in Brussels.” Shark smile], before finally being allowed back in her office.

That is when this newly discovered Greek in me took over once again. Humbly nodding, I made her write everything down, thanked her profusely, and instead of leaving like I had been ordered to, I discretely slipped into the next-door office.

The woman asked about my business, but was very quickly bored with me and told me to go either to the earlier office or the next one over. I of course went to the next one over, where a young woman had half a dozen hopeful people waiting for her to help them. She was my last hope too.

Looking up in dismay when I came in, she exclaimed: “Are you all coming to me? But there are other offices you know!” I thought this was rather a good sign, and when another guard came to direct me to another office, I assured him I had been sent here by the previous office and gently but stubbornly refused to budge.

While I waited, I saw the Scottish woman walking out with a dazed expression on her face. What happened? I asked. They said she had to come back. She’d had to drive 10 hours back and forth in one day, and they told her to come back. How long had she been trying to get her nationality? 1 year, she replied, indignantly. Nodding in sympathy, I thought it best not to tell her it had been 10 long years for me. After all, if you take a person’s hope away, they tend to stop fighting. And the more people fight this bloody Greek system, the more chances we might see a change some day.

After 45 minutes, the young woman finally turned to me. “Sorry about the long wait”, she said. “How can I help you?” I almost hugged her right then. It was the first time since I’d been coming to this bloody Surround that I had heard that sentence.

I handed her my letter from the Ministry, trembling. She took it, read it, and in about 2 minutes she was stapling things together, filling out a form and asking me a couple of questions. In another 5 minutes, she had shown me to another office, deposited my paperwork with them and handed me a receipt.

I found myself on the sidewalk, stunned. Looking at the tiny piece of paper in my hand, the proof that it had not just been a dream, I still did not quite dare to believe that my case was actually going to be considered, after 10 years.

If there is a God, I do believe He/She is Greek. After all, who else would thus reward disobedience such as I had shown?



Linus L:
hahahahahah! the bribes! I was dying... thank you for always updating about your travels!

John T:
You know, Laura. I've heard Greece is a beautiful country with a rich and interesting history. However, after all of these emails... I will NEVER go there, in my life, not once. Was that your purpose? To ruin any chance of me going there? Mission accomplished.

Cory M:
Remind me to never have surgery in Greece.

Ramjasha R:
1. Awesome story
2. Im never going to Greece
3. I will never complain in line @ the DMV again

Katy F:
your struggles with citizenship remind me of what it has been like getting my husband's visa for iran! or trying to get anything renewed, including my own passport and ID papers.


Oct. 4th 2007

Hello people,

I just received a furious email from a friend, ranting about the backwardness of Greece in terms of tolerance, and while I admire her justified indignation, I just wanted to set something straight, as I realize I gave a rather one-sided picture when I told you about my mixed-couple friends.

First of all, not everyone in Greece thinks like the "peripteras" [guy from the "periptero", remember?]. There are a lot of open-minded people here, but they tend to be found in the more artistic/cultivated spheres. At the risk of sounding socially biased, I would say that a "peripteras" is not usually one of them.

And even among those who don't get it, there is not what I call "active racism". In other words, no one will insult minorities (be they gay, black or anything else), and most importantly, there are no acts of violence against minorities - unlike in France, Germany, England, and even the US, which are supposedly more "tolerant" countries yet have regular occurences of beatings, murders, and/or arson against foreigners and their property.

Instead, there is what I call "racism of ignorance" - in other words, Greeks have only recently been exposed to more minorities in their country.
It is only in recent years that they have started seeing a regular influx of Africans, Asians, etc. into their society. As a result, they know close to nothing about them, (except maybe their aunt's cleaning lady, sadly) and there is this sort of "They don't bother us, but let's stay in our respective groups"- attitude which I most definitely intend to contribute to change!

There is also, even among educated people, a lack of understanding that some comments which they perceive as completely natural or some questions they perceive as completely innocent are in fact very offensive. My favourite example? A few years ago, a friend of mine asked my half-Filipina friend if her mother's eyes were "like this", while he grabbed the edge of his eyelids and drew them into a slit.

See, he liked my friend. Thought she was great, in fact. He didn't mean to offend her, but since she looks more latina than Asian, I guess he wanted to make sure he got it right, (or more likely whether I had gotten it right)... He certainly never thought she might be offended by such a question and could not understand my rage when I started screaming that this was unacceptable. To him, it was a perfectly legitimate question, with absolutely no harm intended. He felt I was way overreacting.

I have also noticed that a lot of it has to do with culture and language rather than race. For example, in recent years there have been 1 or 2 Black actors/presenters on TV. But they were born and raised in Greece, and therefore have no accent. As a result, they seem to be completely integrated into Greek society. Now, of course, I don't know these people personally, so I have no idea whether they encounter a different, more subtle kind of racism every day, but my guess is that most of the time, just having the same cultural background as native Greeks (in fact, they ARE native Greeks) gives them more legitimacy in some people's mind than me.

After all, I was born abroad, have lived abroad most of my life, and the slightest foreign accent can be detected when I speak certain words - or at least the few grammatical mistakes I make betray my foreign origins, as some acquaintances were quick to point out. Even a close friend of mine said to me that I wasn't really Greek, certainly not like her, who was born and raised there. See? If your own friends have that kind of attitude, what hope is there from the rest of society?

But I'm working on it, fear not.



Cory M:
Well, I'm certainly happy that there is no serious racism in Greece, alone among the countries of the world. Must be very nice.

Τρίτη, 25 Σεπτεμβρίου 2007

Maybe a Greek after all!

September 25th, 2007

People, today is a great day. Not just for me, but for Greece, indeed, for the entire Hellenistic community throughout the world: I actually got a response from the Ministry of the Interior concerning my Greek nationality. I know, I didn't believe it either, at first.

Now, I don't think I have explained why exactly it is so hard for me to get my Greek nationality. You see, if my father had been Greek instead of my mother, I would have gotten it long ago. That is because there once was a bizarre law in this country, a few years back, that said that you automatically lost your nationality should you be a woman [we weren't macho at all, in those days] and happen to marry abloody foreigner. [OK, I added the 'bloody'.]

Well, my mother did in fact marry a bloody foreigner, Italian as it turns out, and was completely unaware of having lost her nationality. I was therefore born while my mother was technically not a Greek. She got it back a few years later (I'll spare you THAT battle), and never requested it for me while I was underage (thanks, mom), which apparently would have been MUCH easier. [Greeks love emphasizing that fact, for some reason.]

Anyway, the Greeks being a naturally suspicious people, when they see someone trying to get THEIR nationality, all their detective skills are apparently set a-twitching.

Need proof? Not once, but several times, when I mentioned I was officially a Belgian citizen with a Belgian passport, but also wanted my Greek nationality, I was faced with gleefully suspicious glances: "And with what visa are you currently here? How long is it legal for you to remain??" You could almost see their hand hovering towards the phone, ready to make the call that would send me back to whatever miserable little country I was obviously trying to escape from.

I felt almost sorry at having to disappoint them, reminding them gently that Belgium is in fact in the European Union, which means that I am perfectly legal and can remain until the next Flood if I so choose, without requiring anyone's permission… Maybe it is just difficult for them to imagine someone who doesn't need the Greek nationality, yet actually wants it nonetheless.

But let me get back to the letter from the Ministry. The letter (in Katharevousa, of course) states the following:

"In response to your sending [= letter], regarding the subject of your obtaining of the Greek nationality, we let you know that in accordance with article 14, paragraph 1 of Law 3284/2004, "child born before 5/8/1984 from a Greek mother during the time of her genesis [= birth][don't really get this part, no matter which language I translate it into] or the wedding ceremony from which the child was born, it [the child] becomes Greek if it makes a declaration of its will to the Secretary General of the Surround..." [HaHA! Remember that woman who wanted to steal my paperwork? Now I'll show her!!]

As it appears from the facts you have brought to the attention of our Service, your mother, being a Greek citizen, had abandoned the Greek nationality following the realization of her valid wedding with an Italian citizen and for you, as a child of the above-mentioned, IT IS A POSSIBILITY [capital letters are my adjunction] to obtain the Greek nationality by application of afore-mentioned law, by submitting a relevant declaration to the Athens Surround, and by bringing to the attention of the Service of the highest Surround the necessary justifiables [= docs justifying my claim]: proof of your mother's registration with the local [equivalent of City of CulverCity/Glendale, etc.], the certified proof of her marriage and THE CERTIFIED PROOF OF YOUR BIRTH."

People, this is the paper that the Surround employee wanted to confiscate from me. I am doubly proud of having fought her for it, and am gearing up for another inevitable and no doubt formidable rematch.

Do not worry. I'll make you proud.



Kim R:
If (and when) you get Greek citizenship, I am personally flying to Greece and buying you a drink! You have my word.

Christophe N:
Maintenant je comprends toute la profondeur de cette belle expression que nous avons dans l'hexagone: "va te faire voir chez les Grecs."

Jim P G:
you kill me.
At every turn...
you kill me.

Kostantinos C:
well done la garida ;)

Bénédicte G:
Jeeeezzzzzzzzzz, Laura! Je suis de tout cœur avec toi !... Tu me fais mourir de rire avec tes anecdotes (qui, paradoxe extrême, font quand même froid dans le dos).

Πέμπτη, 20 Σεπτεμβρίου 2007


The infamous Karatzaferis...

September 20th 2007

Hello people,

I realize I forgot to let you know the crucial news: the elections for the country’s new government did take place, and despite the fires (and inaptitude in handling them), the ruling party [“New Democracy” – which is the equivalent of the center/right] still has a slim majority.

However, people were disgruntled enough with both major parties [sort of the Greek version of Republicans vs. Democrats] that for once a lot of them decided to vote for other parties, meaning smaller parties who usually don’t stand a chance got more votes and there are now 5 different parties sitting in Parliament.

Knowing the Greeks, this just about ensures that nothing will ever get done, since said parties are incapable of agreeing on anything.

The other parties in Parliament include of course the other main party “PASOK” [Socialist something or other = supposedly the left-wing party – although there is not much difference between the 2 main parties], one of the local Communist parties (yes, we have over half a dozen, since Greek Communists apparently cannot even agree on how to be a good Comrade), “Syriza” [= sort of Coalition of the Left], a sort of centrist/left party that sometimes actually makes sense, and my personal favorite: “LAOS”, which are the main initials for what can roughly be translated as “Popular Orthodox Rally”.

The guy at the head of LAOS had a rather unusual campaign, with such interesting slogans as “Mr. Tenement – because he is different”, “Mr. Tenement – together for a forward movement” and “A PUNCH IN THE FACE! The right choice”, the latter showing him wearing a boxing glove.

Of course, his name is not really Tenement, but it’s a little difficult to make Karatzaferis rhyme with anything in English.

Mr Karatzaferis has described his party as “pre-dictatorship Right” as well as “profoundly democratic”, so it is somewhat difficult to understand where exactly he stands. He also expressed the opinion that November 17th [the terrorist group responsible for the deaths of several people, including a CIA attache, a British military attache and about two dozen more, usually targeting US/Nato/Turkish people] “had some merit” and apparently claims to have pictures of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in his office as “symbols against the Americans”. A colorful figure like only Greece can produce.

Just for your education and entertainment, I thought I should also inform you on some of the numerous Greek parties that did not make it into Parliament.

They include such interesting groups as the Greek Hunters [not sure what their program is, probably something about being able to kill anything that moves all year long], the Marxist-Leninists [who apparently do not agree with either the Communist Party or the Communist Organization], and the Maoists [who clearly disagree with the Marxist-Leninists and the Stalinists, not to mention the Revolutionary Communists].

Let’s not forget the Golden Dawn [anti-Semitic, anti-capitalist, anti-immigrant – in short, the Greek neo-nazis, who interestingly enough claim their philosophy is based on laws of ancient Spartan society], several Ecologist groups with no program that I could fathom, including a “Renewing Communist Ecological Left” [sure, combine the two, why not? Probably something about planting trees in comradeship], the Fighting Socialist Party of Greece [as opposed to the other Socialist parties, I guess, who merely struggle?], the Political Spring [no idea what they stand for, but they do sound romantic], and the Renewing and Modernizing Movement of the Left. [They do have a knack for names, those Greeks.]

I’ll spare you the Centrists [not to be confused with the Democratic Center or the Center Union], the National Democrats [not to be confused with the United Democrats and even less with the United Nationalists] and the Royalists [we did have a king once, but since he was a foreigner imposed on us, the Greeks quickly kicked him out and the so-called Greek royals were banned from ever returning to Greece, so I’m not sure exactly what this party is hoping to achieve].

Anyway, I’m thinking of creating my own party, just to add to the fun. I welcome any suggestions for an interesting name – it needs to rival all the above-mentioned after all, by no means an easy feat.
So far I am thinking of “The Union of Bloody Foreigners of Greece” or “People for the Ecologic Obtainment of the Greek Nationality” or maybe “Coalition of the radically Fed Up”, but somehow it doesn’t sound quite right.

Please, send me your ideas. I am all ears.
[There! A slogan already!!]

To see Mr Karatzaferis in action, click this link (you can stop watching after about 30 seconds): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qa3i8QcNNYk



Devon C:
I think you should call it the United Greek People's Pre-Bureaucracy Movement for Change and Centrism in the New Century. I don't know what the exact Greek translation of that would be, but I'd be willing to bet that it'd be pretty awesome.

Open-minded? What's that?

A typical "periptero"

September 15th 2007

I definitely need to make mentalities evolve here, and quick.

People here are still so unused to seeing Black people [unless they’re Senegalese Africans selling contraband CDs & DVDs on the beach – boy, would Jack Valenti hate Greece…] that a girlfriend of mine who's dating a Black Portuguese told me they kept attracting amazed looks and comments everywhere they went.

She did warn him to brace himself before he came from England to see her, but he assured her he was used to “that kind of thing”. The poor guy actually thought that Greece, being in the European Union after all, could actually be compared to England. People are such innocents.

When he arrived in Greece he was dismayed to realize people were following his every move, avidly watching even when he leaned forward to pick up his glass or when he coughed. [What? A Black man who actually looks like he might have a legit job? Not to mention a Greek girlfriend?! What is the world coming to?!?!]

And the best part? Everyone is a critic, but never so much as in Greece. Need proof? Wait till you hear what happened when above-mentioned girlfriend went to buy a bottle of water at a “periptero”.

[Note: “periptero” is just about untranslatable. They are little huts that you can find on pretty much every street corner throughout Greece, where they sell just about anything, but mainly drinks, ice cream, newspapers, phone cards, chewing gum, cigarettes, etc. Most of these are displayed on the outside. Inside, there is just enough room for 1 chair where the owner can sit in the cramped space all day long, with a tiny window open on the outside world in order to receive payment.]

Anyway, this [conspicuously White] friend of mine went with her [conspicuously Black] boyfriend to buy a bottle of water from one of those “periptera”. [Plural of periptero – you guys might as well learn something while we’re at it.]

The “peripteras” [= guy owning the periptero – Greek is easy, really] looked at her, then at her waiting boyfriend, and instead of handing over the water, said: “Does your father know about this?” [One cannot help but wonder if he intended to inform the father in case he didn’t.]

My friend was so shocked that instead of telling him to get his fat racist gut to hell, she spluttered that of course her father knew. The peripteras then said: “And he doesn’t mind?” Furious by now, my friend replied that of course he didn’t, why should he? At which point the peripteras delivered this final judgement: “He’s a good sort, your father.”

Had it been me, I would probably have thrown the bottle back in his face, but my friend being more civilized than me, she simply paid and left, probably doing more to advance the cause of mixed couples in this country than any of my rantings might.

The poor guy left Greece after 10 days of a “holiday” spent under almost constant scrutiny, feeling slightly traumatized. It is rather uncertain whether he will set foot in Greece again.

And I'll spare you the scandal that erupted the first time they showed 2 men kissing on TV – that was about 2 months ago.



Ari S:
I cant believe that 2 men kissing is a big deal in Greece given that it is the Gay destination of the world for gay partiers and that Greek ancient culture is riddled with homosexual tradition.

Alexandra K:
Thank you for writing all this, I thought Finnish people were isolated from the real world, but after reading your stories I find us rather international :). But I must tell you that there are really people in Finland too who find Black people almost alien and homosexuals should be in the zoo etc. I did an interview a while ago and when I told that our presenter in the show is gay, the interviee said that there should be a glass wall in between them.


This is the view from my mother's apartment. Yes, that's the sea in the background.

September 10th 2007

In case any of you were wondering where I’ve been staying here, I thought it might be interesting to enlighten you.

During my first month, I was able to stay at my aunt’s apartment, which is conveniently situated a couple of blocks from my grandma’s place, where all meals take place. The unwritten rule is that no matter what we are doing or who we are with, sometime between 1.30 and 2 pm we are to report at my grandma’s house in order to be FED. This is serious business, here. Italian mammas have nothing on my grandma. She usually cooks between 3 to 5 dishes for every meal and expects us to eat them all. Even when there’s only the 2 of us. I don’t know how that’s possible either, but just a look at her dismayed little face saying “But you haven’t eaten ANYTHING” (usually uttered after you’ve consumed more food than a single human being ever should)… Well, let’s just say that we try our best, especially since she’s some cook.

Unfortunately, my aunt arrived in Greece earlier this week. Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely delighted to see her, but I do confess I am a little put out at my new accommodations. Since my mother is currently occupying our small roof studio (the VIEW!), and we do not want to risk killing each other over differing hours and varying degrees of orderliness, I am staying in my grandma’s basement for the next 2 weeks.

Picture a room where sunlight only shines for about 5 mn in the morning and another 5 in the afternoon, when the sun is low enough to shine through the tiny, barred windows set high in the walls. Add to that the fact that the woman who looks after my grandmother only goes down there once or twice a year in order to half-heartedly push dust around the 40-year-old furniture and rolled carpets and that the paper thin walls allow me to eavesdrop on every single conversation going on in the hallway (boring, by the way), and you’ll get a better idea. Now, add to all this the fact that not a single thing has been done to improve this place over the last 30 years, which includes leaving the shower and toilet exactly the way they were 30 years ago, and you’ll start seeing how a trip back in time is not always an exciting thing.

And the best part? There is a staircase communicating directly with my grandma’s living room, which means I am forever condemned to hear the latest serials… I just want to share this piece of information with you: Konstantinos and Sofia were lovers, therefore he could NOT have had ANYTHING to do with her death… TADAAAA!!! (I don’t know why the one would preclude the other, but anyway.)

Oh, and Stefanos, who looks like he’s about 35, just announced that he is moving out of his parents’ house. His mother sounded very distraught when she heard the news.

Just thought you should know.


Norman H:
Aha. Sounds like one of my New York City apartments!

Howard V:
Hey Laura, I must say, your (mis)adventures in Greece have been quite entertaining. You should put this on a blog with pictures. Hopefully you are staying well, and just know that it's way cooler to live out there and have 'interesting' times than it is to do the same-old LA scene. So count yourself lucky!

Marc O:
Formidable comme d'habitude, il y a de la matière à long métrage là-dessous.

Ramjasha R:
Hey girl,
just think of your room as a standard Hollywood studio apartment without the $900 rent.

Noemi B:
Eh ben, ca a l'air passionant, chaque minute de ta vie quotidienne!

The jackass

My grandma and me

September 8th 2007

Today my little 88-year-old grandma was almost run over by a jackass,

We had gone out to have a family lunch – a rarity by now, since her best friend of 30+ years, who lives in the same building and has been a part of our lives ever since I can remember, has been lying sick in bed for the past 5 months, and my grandma rarely leaves her side.

I had parked the car a block down the street, so we were tranquilly walking back to it after lunch when above-mentioned jackass, in his puke green convertible, accompanied by his probable wife (safe guess in Greece) and 2 little kids (not wearing seatbelts of course) appeared around the corner, driving like a maniac.

My grandmother and my aunt had stepped off the sidewalk to reach the passenger door, and the jackass, instead of slowing down, decided to accelerate instead. As a result, he hit my grandma’s arm and almost made her fall over. My vision went red and I was out of the car before I knew it, ready to kill.

The jackass at least had the decency to stop to see whether he had killed anyone, then proceeded to come back to our level in reverse – at the same speed he apparently always uses, narrowly missing our feet. I growled: “Sure, why don’t you kill us all? That way there will be no witnesses and it’ll all be peachy.”

Never getting out of his car, he asked: “Did I hit you?” My aunt and I said yes, he had hit my grandma, at the same time as my grandma said: “It’s quite all right, my dear boy. Thank you for enquiring.” My aunt (also raised abroad) and I looked in disbelief at this madwoman who was thanking the jackass who had almost run her over.

The jackass said the Greek equivalent of “Oops, my bad”, and I watched in disbelief while my grandma, who was still holding her arm and clearly in pain, told him it didn’t matter and waved him on his way. I barely had time to write down the license plate number in case it turned out to be more serious before he disappeared. That’s when my grandma said: “Oh, come now. Poor man, he didn’t do it on purpose.”

At which point my murderous rage turned on my grandma and I had a hard time not throttling her myself.

See? This is why the country is in this state. Half of them run around not giving a shit about anyone else, while the other half pretends everything is fine and even thanks them for it.
The politeness of the ostrich. "Let me not be in your way, I'll just hide my head in the sand while you finish devouring me."



Norman H:
Laura, I’m so enjoying these emails, keeping up with your life in Greece, and the wonderful way in which they’re told, that I think you should put them on a blog so more of the world can share.

John T:
All I have to say is... "there would be murders." That is all.

The job

September 6th 2007

Hello people,

I don’t think I mentioned I actually met my maybe-boss earlier this week. In fact, I think I might even start calling him my boss now. Even though I still have no contract, no idea if (and what) he intends to pay me and know nothing more about the project, I have apparently been attributed the local equivalent of a head of physical production and an art director. Most importantly, he told me I would get to pick a script, have all the time to prepare my shoot and be given the freedom to innovate. (IlovehimIlovehim.)

Although said head of production said there are no scripts available at present – just a little Greek setback – I was once again in love with this country. That was until today.

I had an appointment at 1 pm to meet said head of physical production at the office so she could give me more info on the job. Remember the long climb to Athens? This time I thought I’d try an alternate route: the freeway. That meant a longer route, but I wouldn’t need to switch transportation means 4 times, which might gain me some time, however it also meant paying about 8 or 9 dollars’ worth of tolls. Yes, in most European countries you pay for the right to use the freeway. Don’t tell anyone in L.A., they might get some ideas. Anyway, my time is definitely worth 9 bucks, I thought.

The head of physical production was a very friendly woman, by the way – I did meet her on the same day as my boss, during a short visit to a location set where they were shooting the current episode of the show. I also got to observe the local way of working on set – but I’ll come back to that.

When I arrived today at the office, 10 minutes before 1 pm, (and by the way, it took me just as long as the other route, namely 1 hour) I was told that the head of physical production had unexpectedly been called on set, and would probably not be back for several hours. Did I mind waiting? I most certainly did, though I expressed it in more diplomatic terms, and asked when exactly her departure had occurred. Oh, about ½ hour before I got there. Silently raging, I calculated I could have turned around halfway there had I only been given a courtesy phone call. Trying to convince myself that this was a showbiz thing and not a Greek thing, I picked up a couple of scripts they gave me to read – no to select from, as they had already been shot, but to “get an idea of what they were doing”, and took another hour to drive back home.

Now, about that set. Sorry, the former sound person in me is going to take over for a short while.

It was in the centre of Athens, one of the noisiest locations you could imagine. However, inside the little bar where they were shooting it didn’t sound so bad. I have no idea what the sound guy was picking up, though, especially as the boom operator looked about 12 years old and was holding the boom with one hand, the other one on his hip, wearing no headphones and constantly changing his grip on the boom (angled haphazardly at whatever struck his fancy) while the actors were speaking. The sound guys will get it.

Of course, everyone was smoking.

I was asked to be a background actress, in a prominent position – but as soon as they realized I didn’t smoke, I was promptly relegated to the back and replaced by a smoker. When I asked the producer’s assistant (the brother of another friend of mine, as it turns out), whether there was any chance of banning smoking on my set, he chuckled. I would be lynched, he said.

Oh, how I look forward to more smoke-shrouded sets… No wonder most Greek TV shows looks alike: the same universal pall of cigarette cloud hangs over them all.

But the best part was the director.

Director: “How long do we need to switch scenes?”
Makeup: “5 mn.”
Hair: “We need to straighten her hair, so 20 mn.”

Etc., etc. The ranting went on for almost 5 mn, during which a lot of hair and makeup could have been done. They ended up not changing scenes after all, so the actress’ fake blonde hair remained aggressively fake-curlicued throughout my time on set.

Director: [After rehearsing same 5 sentences 4 times, to actor] “Do you have it?”
Actor: “Yes.”
Director: “You’re ready to shoot this?”
Actor: “Yes.”
Director: “Are you sure?”
Actor: “YES!!!”
Director: “OK. Action.”

After the 2nd sentence, the director, who had remained hidden at the 3 actors’ feet throughout the scene, (no doubt he could pick up more of their deep felt acting from there than he could have standing at their level or watching the monitor – we all know what delicate instruments feet are), the director jumped up from his hiding place yelling “Cut!’

Director: [spitefully, at same actor] “You see? You didn’t have it! You didn’t turn your head right on the 2nd sentence! Let’s rehearse this again!”

At which point, I decided I had seen enough and headed out of there.

I make a solemn promise to you people. I will do my best to make my Greek set work the US way: efficiently, politely, and professionally (at least in most cases). Even if they try to lynch me for it.


Nicolas P:
Hi little cousin, I have read everything you have sent to me those last weeks and my belly still aches (so much I have laughed). Anyway, it seems that you are starting to make your way ! Remember that Hell is a boring place, Greece is better (lot of fun and shouting...)

Ari S:
I love it, You should also start the way we did on Tremors by singing the US National Anthem.

Wes K:
It's nice to know that we, even with our somewhat limited USC experience, have as much skill or more in directing. Your story reminds me of working on a Starky set where the 'director' gave the following direction to her actress: "Next time, can you not suck so much?"

Ramjasha R:
Are you sure you haven't left Hollywood? You sound like you were on a standard Craigslist Sony pd150 shoot to me.


September 6th 2007

Remember my father-and-son lawyers? Well, my mother and I had to go over the final statement with them this week, before they officially put our lawsuit in motion.

Now, for those of you not familiar with the subtleties of the Greek language (I’m guessing there are a few), we no longer speak the Greek Homer used in the Iliad. Sure, the same basic forms remain, and some words are comprehensible, but overall it’s as if you tried to speak the English of King Arthur. Ancient Greek evolved into a sort of Middle-Ages version around the time of Byzantium and slowly gave way to a more modern version as a lot of foreign words (from the Frank, Venetian, and Turkish invaders among others) were incorporated into the language over the next centuries.

Around the time the Greeks won their independence from the Turks (roughly 1821), someone had the brilliant idea to fabricate a new language for the new country. They proudly derived a new language from the old and called it “Katharevousa”, which could roughly be translated as “the clean language”.

Great, you say. Except this “clean” language is one of the most complex you can imagine. Imagine not only using sentences composed entirely of words such as “Dost” and “thou”, but also a language in which every single detail must be clarified to the point of making sentences completely unintelligible. Katharevousa has by now been completely supplanted by a much simpler language in everyday usage, but unfortunately it still remains in use for official documents, government texts, medical, and of course legal documents.

The closest translation I can come up with goes something like this, and it does not give you the full flavor of this mystic “Katharevousa”. I have simplified a lot and added the explanations in brackets in the hope of adding clarity:

“As said sufferer number 1 [i.e. my mother] was seated in the rear left seat next to said sufferer number 2 [i.e: me] who was seated in the rear right seat of the moving vehicle for hire [i.e.: taxi], authorized circulation number #98767866544 [OK, I’m just inventing here] driven by Mr. P. Nikolos on the moving circulation route [highway] Vouliagmenis going in the direction of Athens, whereby there are 3 circulation bands at that conjecture [they used a more complex word, but have mercy] that forcibly become 4 circulation bands, thereby forcing the vehicles going in the direction of Athens to displace themselves into that 4th band should they have the intent to turn left onto Street Pringipos Petrou, said sufferers number 1 and 2 were therefore in above-mentioned moving vehicle for hire when it moved onto the 4th circulation band and stopped at the crimson signalization apparatus [they didn’t use red in those days, nor lights, I guess], behind another vehicle for personal use [= private car]. Thus, when the signalization apparatus turned emerald [apparently they didn’t like green either], thereby indicating to cars stationed on the 4th band of the [highway] in the direction of Athens that they were now at liberty to turn left on [that street], both vehicles turned left, moving into the path of the incoming circulation bands of moving circulation route Vouliagmenis [name of the highway] going in the direction of Vouliagmeni [name of an area]. That is when, with undue, extreme and reckless speed, the vehicle for personal use of Mrs X [can you believe it? I don’t know the name of the woman who hit us] passed in front of the crimson signalization apparatus without coming to a stop or applying the use of speed decelerators [= breaks] and with extreme force came up against afore-mentioned moving vehicle for hire #98767866544, thus displacing it several acres in the direction of Vouliagmeni and causing above-mentioned grievous injuries to both sufferers.”

Did you understand everything? It took me a while. Now imagine someone reading this to you at the speed of light: “Assaidsufferernumberonewasseatedintherearleftseat…” You get the picture. There were 80 pages of this. No wonder we spent over 3 hours there. In fact, no wonder our lawyer needed a vacation.

Our lawyers had us over at their home, in Northern Athens. The sister brought us water and tiny ice-cream cones when we arrived and then disappeared inside with her mother. After observing the constant father-son bickering with an amused smile, my mother and I suddenly looked at each other in dismay: here was the masculine version of us!

The conversations went something like this:

Son: [reading text at the speed of light] “As said sufferer number 1 exited the place of getting well [=hospital] …on September 23rd 2005…”

Father: “Wait wait, what was that about September the 23rd? That was 2006, not 2005!”

Son: “No dad, it was 2005. That’s when they had the accident.”

Father: “Wait, give me that.”

Son [firmly holding on to paper]: “No, dad, come on, that’s what it says, it’s right.”

Father: “Give it here!”

[Son reluctantly hands paper over. Small pause while father peruses the text, then turns to us:]

Father: “This here says that you were released from the hospital…”

My mother: “Yes, that’s right.”

Father: “…on September 23rd 2005.”

My mother: “Yes, that’s right.”

Father: “Is that correct?”

My mother: “YES, THAT’S RIGHT.”

Father [to his son]: “OK, keep going. “

Son [After long-suffering sigh]: “…and said sufferer number 1 was then displaced to the home of the woman who gave her birth [= mother]…”

Father: “Just a second.”

Son: “Dad!”

Father: “Were you moved to your mother’s home or your own?”

My mother: “My mother’s, I couldn’t walk up the stairs to mine.”

Father: “All right, proceed.”

Son: ”…with her daughter…”

Father: “Wait.”

Son: “Dad, come ON!”

Father [to me]: “Did you move to your grandmother’s place or your mother’s?”

Me: “My mother’s. I was able to go up the stairs.”

Father: [turning to his son and gesturing dangerously close to the paper with his lit cigarette] “See? You must change this!”

Son: “Yes, I know, I’ve made a note of it.”

Father: “But don’t forget!”

Son: “I won’t! Can we move on now?!”

Father: “Sure. Hand me an ice-cream cone, will you?”

Son: “Dad, you know it’s not good for you, with your diabetes.”

Father: “So?” [Pointing at cigarette in his hand] “This is not good for me either.”

[Son sighs and hands him ice-cream cone.]

Anyway, this as I said went on for about 3 hours.

About halfway through, namely 9 pm-ish, I suddenly felt ravenously hungry, and hinted at my mother that since we were clearly stuck here for another couple of hours, we should order something to eat. My mother threw me a disapproving glance and tersely said “Absolutely not.”

At which point I leaned forward and said to our lawyers: “I’m sorry, but I’m starving. Is there any chance we might order a pizza or something?’ The son exclaimed “But of course!” (clearly hungry as well), just as my mother exclaimed “Laura! I must apologize for my daughter…”

She didn’t have the chance to finish her sentence, since the father interrupted her, vehemently waving his cigarette: “LET THE CHILD EAT, SINCE SHE’S HUNGRY!!”

Don’t you love these people?

The son called for a pizza to be delivered and we continued reading the indigestible document until the pizza arrived. When it did, I grabbed my wallet to pay, but the son was adamant, raising the eminently Greek and absolutely unassailable argument: “You cannot pay for something in MY house!” I had to surrender.

Meanwhile, his mother had set up the table on the veranda before disappearing once again, and the 4 of us, father-son and mother-daughter, were soon settled around the pizza, ravenously eating while discussing our holidays, the state of Greece in general and the interesting fact that the son was the only tall one in the family. Both father and son insisted that I eat the biggest piece, and the father then brought us some sweet grapes for dessert.

Now don’t tell me this would EVER happen in the US.



Mik J:
Oh, come now, Neri, it would--it does--"happen in the U.S."
Gooooood story, at any rate.
I am still laughing.

Amy T:
No Laura you're right. It would never happen in the US. I know lawyers (my dad, husband, father-in-law) ... pretty much my whole family ... and they NEVER have their clients to their houses. NEVER!!!

Wes K:
It might be eerily similar, except that a lawyer in the US would pay $20 for the pizza and then bill you $300/hr for the hour you spent eating.