"East Europe 2005-06" story # 26

Varda, Greece           February 5, 2006

"I don't know what the world may need,
but I'm sure as he!l that it starts with me.
And that's the wisdom
I'd laughed at." - Cracker ("Teen Angst")

What the world needs now is another salesman, like I need a hole in my head.
     But, like holes in your head, salesmen come when you least want them; and you never want them. And I descended upon the Pelopenisian peninsula of Greece this week like some sort of pigeon.
     That's right! The latest marketing strategy of Modern Oddyseus' Travel Annals, inc. has finally been launched. The crying masses will be appeased. Their four basic biological needs - food, water, shelter, and Modern Oddyseus - will now be met.
     So, I and two Greeks had already done the work of translating three of my stories and printing them. I went to the countryside town of Varda. Goats "beh-h-h!"ed, and dirty women wearing shawls were busy doing real work, on the outside of town. The center was a bit more modern, with "kafeneio"'s catering to either yuppy playboys or hardy laborers or retired suit-wearing card-players, with fast-food "souvlaki" diners, and with other small businesses.
     I made my copies and tried explaining to the grey-haired copy-man what my stories were about. It was a slow explanation, as I had to think long for the words I'd use. The grey-haired copy-man had to walk away from me so he wouldn't fall asleep. Oh boy, I thought, losing confidence. It looked like it was going to be yet another failure for MOTA, inc. It's no wonder nobody's buying our stock.
     I fared a little bit better when I went into an archaic-looking government building. I was jittery and unsure, but the lady let me explain myself, and she bought an armadillo story. Next, two brothers in an electronics shop bought an Argentinian party story. And Kostas in his office bought two stories. And my confidence was ripe. And I became a slick-talker.
     Same speel, different language:
     "Kalispera. Ti kanete? Ego episis. Ego eimai o Tzastin, kai o Mondernos Odysseas, apo tin Ameriki, enas taksidiotis tou kosmou, filosofos, kai o kaliteros syggrafeas tou kosmou. Exo merikes istories mou s'Ellinika, metafrazei. Afti einai oraii istoria, apo gnorizontas ena omorfo koritsi tis Gallias ..."
     Why, I could sell an ice-box to an ice-box!
     ... "But, I already AM an ice-box," the ice-box would say. -- And then I'd have him. ...
     It also helped that the Greek countryside dwellers were very interested in what I was selling. To them, one Euro for one story was the greatest deal since sliced bread cost five drachma.
     One of the best parts of my first day of selling came when a guy seated in a restaurant invited me to drink wine with him. A small jug of homemade, rose-sweet wine came, and the man promptly left. Obviously, I had to drink it all. I was a bit intoxicated, but I "pressed on!" to sell thirty stories in Varda, my goal.

I still didn't have a lot of money. But, I took the next day off to have a good time with my profits.
     In a "taverna" (traditional Greek restaurant), I ate an incredible appetizer. A giant green pepper had been cut in half and then cooked or steamed with a ton of gooey white cheese inside, and it was served HOT. Wow.

The next day, I went into the mountainous interior countryside for the first time. I sold a few stories in the tiny villages on the way.
     The mayor of one village bought three of my stories, as I sat in a restaurant eating salted beef morsels on a stick. The old, happy, suited man seemed like a great guy. The fingers on his right hand were all cut off at the knuckles. We shook hands about half a dozen times. I loved this guy.
     Cold, fresh wind blew through this sunny day.
     Herds of sheep wore heavy bells that galloped and cullunk-ed as they grazed. Green valleys cleared of all but olive trees separated the mountains. A chanting male voice sang hymns near a tiny, orange, hillside monastery. And faucets upon central stone squares leaked potable water from the mountains.
     I befriended a seventy-year-old woman named Yeoryia in the highest, most beautiful mountainside village. She was a character. She wore short brown bangs even all the way across her forehead and cute eye-glasses. A baggy purple sweater overflowed from underneath her soft earthy-green cloak. She wore light-brown slippers, and she waddled.
     She stood beside me with her hands in her cloak pockets, in the cool air on a stone-paved village lookout. Elderly, bare trees interrupted the pavement in spots to grow twistingly. We could see up to the whipped-cream top of her mountain, out to a lonely floating rock ridge that raced like a stallion, or down past empty hills a long ways to the Poseidon-blue sea. Yeoryia showed me the now-closed, stone school where she used to study.
     We talked about our families, as she cooked me lunch in her tiny home heated by fire. She placed homemade bread in the ashes near the fire to make toast. She gave me squeaky white cheese which may've come from the fifteen goats she and her husband own.
     There was almost no one in her village, "Kaletzi," this day. She stopped the first car leaving and got me a ride towards home.

And for the last two days, I sold stories in the city of Patra. The people here aren't as excited about what I'm selling. "Den diavaso," many say. (I don't read.) They mostly just work and get stressed and complain.
     There are a lot of salesmen like me in Patra. Most of them come from Nigeria or elsewhere in Africa. They differ from me in that they sell things such as pirate CD's for five Euro's apiece, they target pedestrians instead of going into stores and attacking, and they speak little Greek.
     We salesmen may not be solving the world's problems. But, at least we're solving our own.
     Sometimes, that's all you can do.

- peace, from Greece,
Modern Oddyseus
chairman and CEO, MOTA, inc.

Thanks to Stathis; Nikos; Xaris; Yeorgos; Artiris; three guys who didn't seem to like me but drove me because Yeoryia asked them to; and Xaris - for the second time - for rides!

"What the world needs now
are some new words of wisdom,
like, 'la-la la-la la-la la luh la!" - Cracker

go to the previous story                                                                                   go to the next story

J. Breen's modern-o.com