On our very first outing to eat out we went to a Greek restaurant in Syosset, Long Island called PLATIA, which is run in partnership with a son of my first cousin. We had been roaming, like most people, for someplace to eat out, anyplace, after months of quarantining, and the places in Brooklyn were either sadly closed, or swarming with people who were forgetting about anything to do with social distancing in their eagerness, like us, to get out.
So we decided to take a drive from Brooklyn where I live, because driving has become the last refuge in our pandemic world (although knuckleheads on the highway drive even more now like—knuckleheads–now) and we floated out to Long Island, around Hicksville, where I have a lot of family and lived for several years. Sadly, my parents are gone, their house on the corner with their vegetable garden and tomatoes left out on the verandah and porch to ripen, has been sold, and we could only float by and see the porch now bare and the circulars stuffed and yellowing in the mailbox, which my father had kept meticulously clean.
And then we drove past the old house of my Thio Stelio on Old Country Road, also sold, which practically was the scene of my childhood, because Thio Stelio owned a luncheonette nearby and his house hosted every party inside and out, summer and winter: summer in his backyard with the magnitofono blasting Greek music while my cousins showed off their youthful manliness with dancing and smoking and drinking beer we made trips to the luncheonette to get. And then in the winter the house swarming over three floors with neolaia downstairs doing more dancing and flirting, gerousia upstairs doing gossiping and having yellia telling old stories from the village, and the little kids like me floating into the kitchen to get soda and ice cream and more slices of peponi and karpouzi from Thia Mary and whatever aunt or mama was around.
My cousin Evgenia, the mother of my second cousin who owned PLATIA, was one of my favorite cousins: in Chios when I stayed over at their house up in the village of Egrigoros and I had nightmares she told me to make the sign of the cross on my pillow and it would go away. And it worked! She put her arm around me as we walked like pals through the alleys of the village, she escorted me down to Agiasmata for the warm springs, she knew how to tie the ropes to a saddle better than anybody, and she mothered me and nagged me in a good way—only she cupped her ears when I kept singing Beatles’ songs in 1964 when we visited Chios and I liked to hear the echo of my voice singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” bouncing off the hills.
PLATIA, the restaurant, was wonderful: it had a huge space outside under a white tent, almost like being back in Greece, it had strumming Greek music, and it had wonderful food and service. Of course, I got youvetsi and loved it. People stopping at the traffic light kept staring at us enviously, through their pandemic masks, while my wife and I were in heaven.
Dimitri C. Michalakis