"East Europe 2005-06" story # 27

Athens, Greece           February 13, 2006

So, I'd proudly found a way to make money. Woowee!
     The next problem I faced was that I was very susceptible to the weather, living in a tent. And the weather in Western Greece was not my friend. - Now then, if your idea of a friend is someone who dumps a bunch of water on you, especially aiming for your shoes, when it's very cold out, then the weather in Western Greece was a good friend indeed.
      And Problem # 962 of living in a tent is that I didn't have a place to use my electric shaver. I solved this problem by asking the village baker if he had an electric outlet I could use. He said the butcher and the candlestick-maker were waiting for him in a tub, but I could use his outlet if I was quick. People frequently offer me great hospitality, but I sometimes hate asking people for things I need such as this instance. I oughtn't feel bad about doing this, in moderation, because I know from experience it's quite nice when people ask me for things and I can help them. Besides, the baker and I had always gotten along well.
     Soon afterwards, I called to a friend in Athens and told him I was wearing two swamps on my feet. Before I could ask him if he had an electrical outlet I could use for the next week-and-a-half, he told me to come as soon as possible.
     The thing I'll miss most about my time in the olive orchard was the nearby calm comet sea. I sat beside it every day. After rain, I looked to the opposite side at the cone-y or bunching-up mountains and observed to which depth on each the snow level advanced. During wind, I sat still until the waves' crackling was felt in my chest like an electrolysis massage. There wasn't likely to be nature like that in Athens.
     But, a moist snowball snowfall was making a rare appearance in the capital city when I first arrived.
     The next day, I was hanging out with some Bangladeshians. A lot of petite, muddy-skinned, freshly-aged-looking, totally clueless Bangladeshi males come to Athens to sell scarfs and mittens beside the subway entrances.
     I say they're totally clueless because: 1. they only know a few words in Greek; 2. the Greeks look down on them and probably never speak to them in their whole history except to buy a scarf; 3. they have to pack up and run every time they see the police, or else they can lose all their mittens or get thrown in jail.
     But, they were very friendly to me, a fellow seller. And they weren't Athens' most clueless on this day. That's because I, in two-and-a-half hours of subway entrance selling plus a brief stint of door-to-door selling, didn't sell a single story. I guess I'm a cellar seller ... ha, ha, HA!
     I reached a low point the next morning, when the electronic convertor for my shaver broke (I have more problems with that thing ...) and I hardly had enough money for a new one.
     ... I could've used Libor's money.
     ... Twenty-four-year-old Libor, a friend of mine in the Czech Republic and trumpeter for the great band "Bratri Orffove", had generously given me some money with the note: "If you will have some problem ..." I'd had romantic visions of going until my travels were finished and never using his money and sending it to him. But now, that broken convertor seemed to be a problem. ...
     But, I wasn't just sitting idly watching nature. No. I'd adapted to quickly write a new story-selling sales-pitch. This one aimed to make people:

1. laugh.
2. like me.
3. be interested in me.
4. give me tons of money.

Smart, huh?
     "Eimai o Tzastin: ELEFTHEROS taksidiotis apo ton Mitsigan. Imoun daskalos stin Tsexia, piga stin Islandia yia na vlepo ta pio oraia koritsia tou kosmou kai vrika douleia s'ena mbar kai META ematha oti itan ena YKAI mbar ..."
     I also switched working locations from a loud, depressed central part of the city to a brighter area.
     It worked. I did fifty-three Euro's in sales in three hours, I bought a new convertor with a piece of the profits, and Libor's money has been saved! I guess you could say I'm a stellar seller ... aah, HA! ha ha.
     My friend in Athens, Costas, is a funny guy. We've been laughing a lot together. He's got an enormous, sparkling, wonderful laugh. His round head 's like a big balloon. He's got fuzzy dark hair. When he laughs, it's like the balloon's screaming out air.
     He's got a round, medium-muscular build, and he wears dim-colored button-down or polo shirts tucked into jeans.
     He walks with an air of happy self-importance. He's twenty-eight, he loves business, and he's the third-highest man in a company of computer-selling chain stores called "Plaisio". (I like to joke that I could teach him a few things about business, seeing as how I'm the # 1 HEAD-HONCHO of an international story-selling outfit.) Costas's father owns Plaisio and grosses 250 million Euro's more a year than Modern Oddyseus' Travel Annals, inc.
     I'm gonna have to spice up my sales-pitch a bit more.
     Costas works about seventy hours a week. Yet, he's easy-going and incredibly friendly and humble, and admits to being baffled by women. His attitude is one that seems to be constantly teetering in wait for a big laugh. He aspires to leadership and owns biographies of Winston Churchill, Richard Branson (owner of Virgin Records), Gandhi, and MLK. His ultimate goal is to use business as a means for solving poverty in third-world countries.
     We'd met at our college in Florida. In Athens, we've been talking about everything and joking a lot. We've watched shocking and political, alternative theatre; we've gone to nightclubs, where it's tough to get someone to mingle outside of their group; and we went to the town of Marathon, where the Greeks defeated the Persians in a battle 2400 years ago, when the first marathon runner ran twenty-six miles to tell Athens of the victory.
     When he isn't laughing, Costas speaks with a booming voice which is at the same time harmless and innocent, and his English is hesitant like Dracula's. He told me a funny story about how his parents had gotten their dog. It's a little dog, with dirty-blond hair that twists like corkscrews and falls over his eyes and feels rough like a mop-head.
     "I found him one day and took him home.
     "I was jogging ... joaging ... jawging? ... I was running, and there had just been very much - I mean, A LOT - of rain falling. And I came to the top of the hill, and this dog came out from between two cars. And this dog had a look on its face that said life was just the worst, most terrible thing possible. I mean, this dog just could not take it.
     "So, I went over to pet ... pat? ... whatever. yeah, "pet" him, and then, he started to follow me. And he ran with me all the way to my parents' home, and he stayed with me. He came inside the yard, and he came to the door, and he sat outside while I went in. And my mom went outside and said, 'Hey, you know, what is this, uh, situation out there?'
     "And I went outside, and this dog ran with me as I rode my bike all the way to my apartment - and you know how far that is. And he sat outside my door. And in the morning, he was still there. And I went to work all day, and when I came home he was still there. And my mother said, 'You can't keep him there, because, you know, you can't feed him,' so my parents took him here, and we kept him."
     The dog's name is Liza. It's now much more content, and it barks and yips happily whenever Costas or Costas' father enters the house.
     Costas seems to have inherited his laugh from his father. Yesterday, Sunday, we were all winter swimming with Costas' mother at the beach at Marathon.
     Mountain foothills nearby; aged trees with wind-twisted barks and poofy leaves; and a wooden hut serving us tea and cognac; were the only things visible from this long sand beach. Costas has adhered to the all-coldwater-shower policy for seven years already, and so he and his burly moustachioed father were able to stay in the sneakily-bone-numbing-cold water longer than I. Costas' mother kept calling, concerned, for him to get out of the water. "Greek mothers ..." Costas explained.
     A fire in a sea-side restaurant kept us warm afterwards. We ate well: an orange-and-green chopped salad with little plums; a creamy, soft cheese that had been mashed like mashed potatoes; slimy, eel-y herring pieces with black spices; a pod of white fish eggs that reminded of cuscus; stringy, lazy, seaweed-green vegetables; a flat, foot-and-a-half-long fish called "lamvraki"; rose wine; and a moist walnut cake. Costas told his father I'd gone into a Plaisio store in Western Greece, and it was my turn to tell a story.
     I said that I'd wanted to buy a computer diskette, but the packs they sold cost more than I wanted to spend. But, I was speaking to the young salesman, and I mentioned I knew Costas. And the salesman said, "Oh, you know Costas? Well then, here's a disk."
     Costas' father loved this story. He imitated the salesman: "Oh, you know Costas? Take the bloody disk. Get the hell out of here."
     And then, father and son laughed. They laughed, tears squirting out of their eyes, for a good minute. I kind of laughed too, though I didn't really understand the joke. But, at least, I was glad they were laughing.
     "Take the bloody disk."
     And they also laughed about a quote they'd heard once at a conference in America:
     "It's not that life is short, it's that death is so fucking long."

- peace out,

go to the previous story                                                                                   go to the next story

J. Breen's modern-o.com