Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A New Look

I was thinking the other day, for a guy whose house has exactly one room that's white, this blog was rather lacking color. So going into May, I've decided to spruce the page up a bit.

Oh, and just for fun, here's a picture of Hera and the peach tree.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Greek Zombies

The other day, I took some Easter lilies up to Mount Olivet to place on the graves of my grandparents and aunts. As I bent down to place the flowers near the stone, I made a startling discovery: behind my papou's grave was a strange stick-like object protruding from the dirt. I reached over and broke a bit off, examined it and thought it looked a lot like a bone. But maybe it was just a dead plant. So I reached down and gave the thing a tug at the very root.

Holy heebie jeebies, Batman! It was a some sort of partially cooked bird carcass stuffed into a plastic sack! And it was a big bird at that. I had busted off a piece of what had been a wing bone.

Like the dashing hero in every adventure, I took decisive action: fleeing to the sexton's office checking over my shoulder every few seconds to make sure no zombies were after my brains! The big burly cemetery workers could remove it more aptly than I, I reasoned.

Nearby the buried bird were a couple of upside-down jars and some other items. The grounds crew could get rid of those for me too.

A few days later, the boys and I stopped back to make sure that the chicken-ala-graveyard had been removed. To my great relief, the workers had indeed pulled it out and filled the hole with dirt. But those creepy jars were still there. So, using a pointy rock, I started excavating.

Here's what I dug up:
Now I admit, the Nescafe bottle cracked me up: Nescafe is what you order in Greece if you want watery "American" coffee!

For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what the two rock-like objects were. Actually, they weren't rocks at all, but composite board. And both had been painted, the larger one with pins sticking out of it.

I dragged everything home, donned some plastic gloves, and opened the two bottles up. At first, I thought the Nescafe might have been filled with skinny fingers.
But it ends up they were chilies floating in what looked like fermenting Nescafe. And I know where those chilies came from: the label on the smaller bottle read Chinese Red Peppers.

And what of that pepper bottle? Well, it still had the original liquid (so I'm glad I used gloves) but also contained what appeared to be photo paper - any images long since dissolved.
I don't know if someone was practicing an alternative religion like Santa Ria but if they were trying to create an army of the living dead they're going to have a couple of pissed off old Greek zombies on their hands!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

But I'm Old Enough

There comes a time in every parent's life, when the kids want more freedom. That's been happening more frequently with Gus lately.  He keeps reminding me he's old enough to do things on his own. He wants to spread his wings, explore.

He's made a new friend, who lives in the condos around the corner from our house. Gus met him through another friend, whose little brother is Niko's best friend.  The kid came over yesterday - nice young man, well mannered, polite.

Then Gus asked the question, "Can we go over to Jake's house?" My initial response in my head was, "Are you crazy? That's four houses away - and we don't know his parents." But if I had said that, what was I saying about the kid's parents, who didn't know me from Adam, but allowed their kid to come to my house? At least in theory they had allowed him to come over.

I looked at Gus:

But I saw:
I thought about it for maybe 10 seconds, but it seemed like an eternity to both us of - he pleading with his eyes, I trying not to freak out. In the end I acquiesced and let him go over for about 30 minutes. Thankfully, the boys returned before the deadline, and finished playing at our place.

When it was time for Jake to go home, I mortified Gus by insisting on walking him home - not for the reason Gus imagined - but in order to introduce myself to the kid's parents...and for me to meet them.

The older he gets, the more independent he's becoming. That's good on many levels. It also keeps me up at night.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Birds of a Feather (Again)

Friday Kelly and I ran to IFA to get some chicken feed. Somehow he managed to talk me into getting 3 more chickens. Oy. Keeping with our tradition of giving our hens Greek names - save Mabel, who ended up being a rooster! - I've christened them Clio, Thalia and Calliope: after three of the ancient muses.


These - hopefully - girls are California Whites, which  means they'll be white with a few black "spots" - and their eggs will also be white. And they're described as quite, docile and friendly, so the boys have taken to socializing them.
Gus and the girls

Niko, there's a chicken on your head!

Bird Man of Salt Lake

It's official: I'm a s--t head!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My Little Secret

One of the advantages of being with someone for as long as Kelly and I have been together is that you're well aware of the others embarrassing secrets.

A secret that Kelly has long known about me that is likely news to many readers of this blog, is that I am a fan of Glen Campbell. Yes, the country singer...the guy from the late 1960s - early 1970s television show ...the conservative Republican.

I never missed The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. In fact, if I was out playing in the yard or over at a  friend's, my parents would literally yell out the window at me, "Christo! Your boyfriend's show is on." And off I'd go running to be spellbound in front of the TV.

When my sister took me to see True Grit starring Campbell as La Boeuf the Texas Ranger (a role later played by Matt Damon) I made her sit through it three times. Unlike in the later version, La Boeuf is killed in the original. I was devastated.  So I persuaded her to stay two more times: convinced that he would eventually remember what was about to happen to him, take decisive action, and avoid being killed.

We watched it two more times, people - that's how deep my faith was in him.

The coup d' grace came when my father was returning from work one afternoon and found me hanging out in front of a neighbor's house: Glenn Campbell, a retired doctor. My brothers, John and Dan, had convinced me that Dr. Campbell was Glen's father.  I figured even a mega-celebrity would make time to visit his dad. So I would just sit and wait.

Dad hauled the 6-year old stalker home.

Well, the other night Kelly came home with a surprise for me from Good Will.
STILL dreamy!
Boy, do I love that guy. Kelly! I mean Kelly!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Grand Tradition

When I was Gus's age, my Greek vocabulary consisted of probably a dozen words:

- ela'tho (come here)
- yia yia (grandmother)
- papou (grandfather)
- theia (aunt)
- nouna (godmother)
- nouno (godfather)
- pyos (who)
- theleis (do you want)
- kseelo (stick / switch)*
- koutali (spoon)*
(*Used as "threats" to beat me by my yia yia - like she ever would've.)
Oh and skata, which means, well, let's just say it's the root for English word "scatological." That was also the word that all my friends and all of my siblings' friends knew as well.  It was the only Greek word we taught them. It was, after all, the only useful Greek word for them to know.  

Although our use of the word wasn't really frowned upon - nor encouraged - hearing it slip pass the lips of one of our friends immediately made our parents admonish us. We were reminded that it wasn't nice to teach them those kinds of words. 

Well, the other day, the boys went to some friends' house after school. When they were returned, Gus's friend leaned out of the car and said, "Hey, Gus, SKATA!" 

I clucked my disapproval, but I must admit, I'm a rather glad to see he's continuing a grand tradition.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Another Threatening Night

Far too many times, I've heard pundits, religious leaders, and conservative activists talk about how same gender marriage and gay adoption is a threat to the traditional American family.

Hmmm. I guess I can see their point. Tonight we followed Niko's first coach-pitch baseball game with Gus's Cub Scout awards ceremony, during which he received his Webelo badge.

Come to think of it, we are pretty threatening.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Island Paradise

Saturday afternoon, when the rain stopped and the skies opened up to a beautiful Spring day, we grabbed the kids and my sister and headed to Antelope Island State Park. At 42 square miles (106 sq. km) and rising to 6600 ft (2010 m) the island is located in the north eastern part of the Great Salt Lake. Although easily accessible by a causeway just 40 miles north of Salt Lake, it remains one of the area's hidden treasures.

John Fremont and Kit Carson were the first Euro-Americans to step foot on the island, and promptly misnamed it after the pronghorn sheep roaming all over the place. I suppose Antelope Island does have a better ring to it than Pronghorn Sheep Island.

Along with the pronghorns, the island park is now home to bison, mule deer, big horn sheep, and other smaller mammals like jack rabbits. The only "natural" predator are the coyotes and birds of prey. It offers some amazing scenery, and was described by the boys as being, "awesome!"

If you've never been, here's what you're missing!
One of the 500-750 bison on the island.

Beach bums

Beach with reeds

Beach and mountain

Best pic I could get with my phone of "antelope"
Need I say more?
Got him!

Wasatch range reflected in Great Salt Lake.

Rock outcropping.
View of the rocky hills from beach.
Did we mention 500-750 bison?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Clash of the Titans

Anyone who questions if there is such a thing as karma, or if God has a sense of humor, need only spend five minutes with Niko and me together.  Here is another human being with whom I don't share any genetic history, no DNA, no inherited traits, who's personality so mirrors my own that it's down right scary.

Sure, some of it can be attributed to nurturing, mimicking what he's seen from me - like his inability to utter the simplest statement without waving his hands around wildly. What? We're expressive guys.

No, this isn't learned behavior, this is something deeper. We're both stubborn. We both simply know we're right. And we both refuse to give an inch when we disagree.

Last night a disagreement about eating carrots with dinner escalated into a war of wills. It was epic - worthy of a mythological battle of old. But we're not Titans. We're a dad and son.  A dad and son too much like each other sometimes.

And frankly, sometimes I don't know what to do. Perhaps to make peace with Niko, I need to make peace with myself first.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Zito E Ellas!

Thursday the school had its Greek Independence Day program. The boys were simply brilliant.

Along with doing the Kritikos Zirtos dance, Gus also recited a poem about the Greek revolutionary hero, Theodoros Kolokotronis (who hails from our "native" state of Arkadia).

Niko recited a poem about the color orange, and danced the hasaposervikos. He managed to keep secret the part where he and the other little boys moved to the center of the circle and showed off their prowess by jumping and slapping their raised feet.

As I watched, yelling, "OPA!" I swear out of the corner of my eye I saw my yia yia clapping in time with the music - smiling with pride from ear to ear.


Niko - I'm the color orange, which everyone likes. I like it too, which is why I'm wearing it.

Gus - Outstanding and fearless, the "Old Man of Moria,"I was courageous for freedom. From the battle of Tripolitsa to the legendary battle of Valtetsi; wherever I went the tassles of the Turkish fez caps trembled.