Thursday, November 29, 2012

It's Greek to Me

One of the great benefits about searching the internet is stumbling across an unintentional gem. Recently, looking for a the lyrics to a song led me to a short independent film, which sent me to a stand up comic routine, finally guiding me to tongue-in-cheek lists of ways you know you're Greek.

Usually, I find these analyses mildly amusing - poking fun at the extremes found among my people and culture. That is I used to find them mildly amusing. Now I recognize they're making fun of me.

Some of the proof points corresponding directly to me:

* #37 - When leaving a house, you stand at the front door for a half an hour more saying good bye
* # 4  - You have a bottle of ouzo in your house right now (two of em, actually)
* #75 - You think talking loud is normal
* #12 - You've unintentionally smacked a stranger while talking with your hands

But the one that really hit home:

* #36 - Your pets have Greek names.

Aphrodite and Stavroula
Eleni and Yia Yia 


 And what of Gracie? #37 - Your pets understand Greek!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November 21st - A Day to Remember

November 21st is a special day for our family. It's the day that Kelly and my sister, Sandra, went to the Oakland dog pound and rescued a scrawny, scraggly street dog that would become Gracie.

I still remember that day: I walked in to the kitchen, saw her sitting there, dirty and matted. She looked at me, turned her head to the side a little, and sauntered on over. The still unnamed Grace, pressed up against me and pushed her head against mine.  I'm not much for anthropomorphism but I swear she was saying, "Thanks."

A lot has changed in the 12 years since have passed: we've moved 4 times, the boys came along, she mellowed a lot. But one constant has remained: every day she still  says "thanks" to me.

Funny, I always think I'm the one, who should be thanking her.
Poor Gracie, wearing the Cone of Shame!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cover Up, Please

San Francisco is in the midst of a debate about banning a great deal of the public nudity that the city is infamous for. It's true, during the nearly 10 years we lived there, Kelly and I saw way too many people wearing nothing by tennis shoes and a smile.

I'm not a prude: I believe there's a time and place for nudity. But I believe there's also a time and place to cover up.  Wine connoisseurs, however, shouldn't have to make that distinction for the label of a wine bottle.

Unfortunately, they do when purchasing one of my favorite wines in some Utah state-owned liquor stores. It's a Greek wine called Amethystos, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with an added grape found only on the Greek island of Limnos.

It's a dry, heady wine that's not for everybody. But it's also not controversial.You see, the lable on Amythestos has an avant garde painting of three women each holding a glass of wine. Oh, the women are topless. 

When my parents bought me a bottle for my birthday last Spring, they were asked if they wanted the bottle covered or not. Apparently, in some Utah communities - like those in Utah County - the clerks at the State Liquor Store are frequently asked to cover the ladies on the bottle. Those clerks oblige using black masking tape.

It rather reminds me of my junior high school librarian, Mr. Friend, who took it upon himself to remove the naughty bits found in art books with an X-ACTO knife and black marker. Venus Di Milo was missing more than just her arms after Mr. Friend got a hold of her.

 Here's the thing: the type of people, who would find the bottle label offensive (or erotic) are not very likely buying wine anyway, so what does it matter?

There's a time and place for everything, I guess. The folks in the city I loved to call home need to think about covering up; the wine I love now shouldn't even be asked.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

An Electoral Map to Remember

One early summer day back in 1976, I was walking home from the library when I ran across a political lawn sign tossed in the gutter. I picked it up, brought it home, and with the permission of my parents posted it in our front lawn.
Shortly after that fateful day, I watched the national convention on TV with my great grandmother as Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale accepted the Democratic nomination.  A few weeks later, my mom drove me to Salt Lake to the Democratic Party headquarters, where I was handed a stack of Carter brochures and asked to drop them in my neighborhood.

It was my very first political involvement, and I was obsessed with the election.  But on election night, I was sent to bed before the results were in. I tossed and turned wondering if the guy I wanted had won.  I still remember the joy I felt the day after the election when I found The Salt Lake Tribune waiting on the kitchen table, Dad having propped it up against a glass. The headline heralded the first president elected from the "Deep South" since before the Civil War, the electoral map reflecting that fact.
Four years later the election was decided well before I went to bed,  and the result was a different story. I was heartbroken. But for me election fever had already taken root. By 1984 I was a volunteer staff member of Frances Farley's Congressional campaign.  I lived and breathed that campaign 24/7. And after she lost (by just under 500 votes out of over 250,000 cast), I was with her as she was returned to the state Senate in a landslide two years later.
The late Frances Farley was only the 2nd woman and the 1st elected without having first been appointed to serve in the Utah state Senate. Her Congressional loss was still a victory - for much of the 1990s, Utah's 2nd Congressional District  was represented by women.
 I continued being very politically active when we moved to California - I was even the Harvey Milk Lesbian / Gay / Bisexual / Transgender Democratic Club's Volunteer of the Year back in the late 1990s.
But then something happened, something came along that killed my desire to be so deeply involved.
Besides a lack of free time, I also decided I wanted my kids to live in a world less partisan, less divisive. With "talking heads" of all political bents trying to shout down the "other side," I didn't want my kids to be a secondary priority to an election.

That doesn't mean I wasn't still involved - this year I did some consulting on a state-wide race, donated a little money, and had a few lawn signs (couple of which were stolen.)
"Our family stands behind Jim Bradley, because he stands behind our family." (I'm not demented, I'm squinting!)
Sure, the boys knew we supported President Obama's re-election, but that was about it. Then election day came, and when I picked Gus up at school, he enthusiastically told me that they had voted in his class and the president had won 3-2. His homework that night was to watch the returns.

I couldn't get over how into it he was. So, just before the polls closed here in Utah, I invited him to come with me to watch the rest of the results in the hotel suite of the candidate with whom I had consulted.  He jumped at the opportunity.

For most of the time, he was the only kid there. Sticking close to me, he tried to follow the discussion about this candidate or that one. Of course, he couldn't understand why everyone in the room had such a visceral reaction to the GOP Senatorial candidates in Indiana and Missouri. And he didn't know why we all stood and toasted the memory of the late (and I think pretty darn great) Sen. George McGovern. But when  MSNBC called Ohio for President Obama, and he crossed the magic threshold of 270 electoral votes, Gus jumped to his feet with the rest of us. He and I even shared a hug out of pure joy.

The next day he told his class where he had watched the results. The teacher and other kids were impressed. (He also told them that since it was a special occasion, I let him have a Coke!) He had really enjoyed it.

Whether his interest in politics continues or not - whether he too has a life-long case of election fever - isn't important. Because I know he'll always remember watching the results of the 2012 election with his dad. And he'll always remember his first electoral map.

Friday, November 9, 2012

We Interrupt This Program

Several people have asked me when I'm going to blog about the recent election. Don't worry, it's already finished and in the queue. But, I have chosen to bump it from rotation to share some great animal news: Athena has safely returned home!

As many of you may have heard, one Monday morning almost three weeks ago, Kelly and I corralled the grey cat Athena into the car to take her to the vet for some needed boosters.  I went in to do some paper work, while Kelly and Athena stayed in the car. Not three minutes later, he poked his head in the office and said, "Never mind, we have to go!"

Athena had some how broken free of the leash (having successfully escaped from the carrier earlier) and darted across 6 lanes of traffic. For three days we searched for her, but she was no where to be found.  We sought comfort by reminding ourselves that it was still warm out, there was water in the nearby canal, and plenty of mice in the fields for her to eat. After she remained missing for a week or so, we resigned ourselves to fate: either someone would catch her and call the number on her tags, or she would find her way home. But neither happened.

Every night in my evening prayers, I asked God to keep an eye out for her and to keep her safe. It was all I could do, making me feel even more helpless.

But tonight, my prayers were answered! I had plugged my phone in to charge upstairs, and enjoyed How to Train a Dragon for boys' movie night in the family room. A couple of hours later, I grabbed my phone and noticed I had missed a call - no voice mail was left.

Now usually, I just ignore missed calls without a voice mail. It's almost always a survey or my alma mater looking for a donation. But tonight for some reason I called the number back. Hearing the woman ask, "Do you have a cat named Athena?" was music to my ears.

She had been hanging around the woman's house for several days - less than two blocks from where she made her mad getaway, and just a few more blocks from our house. Today's snow finally drove her to seek shelter on the woman's porch, where she was taken indoors, and we were called.

Seemingly not at all pleased with her adventure, and finally safe and sound at home, she ate heartily, drank her fill, and has spent the rest of the evening curled up in Kelly's lap, happy to be home.

We're happy she's back.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Kseno I Love

This is a photo of me with the lovely Greek singer, Margarita. Yeah, I had had a couple glasses of wine first.

Just as it was about to be taken, I picked up the mic and said, "Kelly, be sure to take a photo. We'll send it to all the family and they'll say, 'We knew that kseno he was with was just a phase!'"  Ksenos means foreign man.

My punchline got a big laugh, and a squeeze for me from Margarita. It also got some good natured finger wagging from several of Greeks who, "Like the kseno very much!"

And who can blame them?