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.