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- The Hellenic Initiative’s 11th Annual Gala to Honor Ted Leonsis
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A New Lease on Life
My daughter and her husband were recently in Greece, visiting Athens, Santorini and Crete and with the marvels of the age sending us photos of their travels on their phones and Facetiming with us one night while they sat in Plaka at one of the outdoor eateries under the grape vines in the moonlight and I got to talk to the waiter, Kosta, who peeked down at me through the phone like a window. “How are you, Kyr Dimitri?” he said. “Where are you?” “Brooklyn,” I said. Next thing I expected him to say he had once lived in Brooklyn: but he was the one Greek who hadn’t visited America. “Well, kali sperasas,” he said to me, as he put down their kataifi and coffee. “And I’ll have a coffee, too,” I joked with him. I joked with the kids afterwards and said our goodbyes, them to enjoy the rest of the night under the stars in Plaka with the view of the Acropolis lit up in the sky and me in Brooklyn, ready to take out the garbage for the pickup tomorrow.
It’s hard to believe that people live like that in that part of the world (under beautiful skies, with beautiful seas, great food, laughter and good company and music and dancing under the stars) while we sit in front of our television sets. It’s hard to believe that in Santorini people live on the rim of a volcano in houses and churches as white as coral and have their late night ouzo and meze with a backdrop of skies every shade of orange and pink and blue.
It’s hard to believe the tomatoes there are twice as big and actually taste like tomatoes and there is a never-ending supply of feta cheese to put over every salad that is served with the squid that was drying on the line just before.
It’s hard to believe in Crete you can have wine from vineyards that have been cultivated for centuries and locals have rusks in their salad that might break your teeth if you don’t learn the trick of letting them soak with the juices of the salad and then the combination makes for a salad that is the meatiest anywhere.
It’s hard to believe that the palace at Cnossus still has paintings on the walls still vivid after 4,000 years ago. When was the last time you had to paint your house?
The kids Facetimed us from Crete, as well, at another outdoor café, also at night, under the stars, under the lattice of grapevines, practically close to midnight, but with the place full, and the streets buzzing. And they did it again back in Plaka on the night before they left Greece, at a taverna somewhere, where the old men were singing “Margarita Margaro” in broken voices that sounded perfect for it and it was well past midnight, but nobody seemed to be in a hurry to go home, because I think the eternal glory of Greece and Cyprus is not just the beautiful scenery and great food, but the company of people who know how to live life with simple means but to the fullest and every time we go to Greece we get a reminder of what it means to be fully human and fully alive.
If you can manage it don’t forget to visit Greece and Cyprus this summer and get a new lease on life and kales diakopes!