Monday, September 6, 2010

There ain't no Olive trees in Coney Island

As a Greek from Brooklyn, my vision of Greece was Olive trees, a view of the sea, Cypress trees, and a small church.

My parents were Asia Minor Greeks, they were obsessed with the sea, we lived in Coney Island, I am sure the sea being so close was one of the reasons they settled there. No Cypress trees and certainly no Olive trees in Coney Island.

When we visited the village in Turkey where they were born I do not remember any olive trees, they all lived off the sea, fishermen, all of them. I suppose the cemetery had Cypress trees, but I do not remember them.

My vision of Greece certainly had Olive, and Cypress trees, as well as a church.

We bought a piece of property in the Argolida, near Porto Heli, big Olive tree area and plenty of sea views.

The property we bought, for some reason, was the only five stremmata piece in the Argolida with no Olive trees, no Cypress trees and no church, nevertheless we have an amazing view of the sea. That is something I could not have fixed, the rest we could do something about.

I found out that Olive trees could be transplanted, moved from one area to another.
Had we planted seedlings, my grandkids would have seen mature trees.

We transplanted two and three hundred year old trees, exactly where we wanted them. We have one at the top of the driveway. A friend told us we were very lucky to have found that tree in such a perfect location, he is a lawyer so what can you expect. He could not conceive of moving such a large and old tree.

The Cypress trees as well, were transplanted, a much easier job than the Olive trees. We also built a small chapel, named for my wife’s late brother, Agios Demitrios. Our son painted the frescoes in the church, more about that later.

I wanted our very modern house to look like it was dropped in the middle of old stone walls, old Olive trees and an old stone chapel. It worked.

It helped being in advertising and supervising photo and television productions.

“You want an Olive tree there, you got it”.

“Old stonewalls, no problem, you got it”.

“Cypress trees there, near the front door and here, you got it”.

I realized building a house is a lot like doing a TV commercial, what you want, you get, and you pay for it.

Back to the Olive trees, they have been in this part of the world for thousands of years; it is inconceivable to imagine Greece without them.

We make olives to eat and even make or own oil, although we have to steal some from abandoned fields to have enough olives for a decent amount of oil.

I have become a Greek when I talk about my Olives,

“The best oil, and just taste that olive, and you cannot buy stuff like that”.

I sort of even believe it.

The sea, Olive trees, Cypress trees, old stonewalls, a stone church, what more could a kid from Brooklyn want?

I could use my own water and not have to have it shipped in by truck. We did dig a well at the beginning and we found part of our view, sea, even crabs came up.

No real complaints, not too many guys from Coney Island have their own Olive trees.

I often wonder what Momma and Pop would think.


  1. Love that Olive tree in the drive...I think Tula did, too!

  2. Your Momma and Poppa woud love it... and they would be so proud of you.

  3. A very warm and sweet story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and laughing and being touched at the same time.

    I'm sure all the dogs add that extra special flavor to the olive oil, also.

    Great job, Greg.

  4. It's soon to be olive picking time again. I can already taste that crusty bread dipped in fresh olive oil as it pours straight from the stone press. Yum!!!