Sunday, June 26, 2011

Horses in the olive groves.

I do not know why this is so surprising to me. Goats, sheep, dogs, donkeys in the groves makes some sort of sense.

Our area is almost a suburb of Athens; it is the Hamptons of Athens…at least that is what it has been called.

The locals have prospered selling land for villas to Athenians and foreigners. They had donkeys and horses; at least their fathers did, before the BMWs and the Mercedes they tool around in now.

For many years there were no horses around here, yes on the island of Spetses for the carriages that take tourists around, but not here on the mainland.

There seems to be an influx of horses now, the locals have even started an equinine club, horses seem to be all over the place. They show them and ride them around…not quite England, but close.

They ride them with a sort of western saddle with lights, especially at night, which makes sense to me.

It might be a nostalgic desire to return to their roots, a little like the wealthy ship owners having traditional wooden fishing boats “kaikia “ instead of “ gin palaces “.

I guess if you think about it, it makes perfect sense, horses and kaikia, I will have to go back to making candy, just like Pop did, or get a kaiki like Papoo.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Connections and coincidences…all the time

I know all about the connections you make through the net, social media, blogs etc.

Yeah, yeah, I know six degrees removed from everybody, five from Kevin Bacon, for God’s sake.

Combine that with coincidences that happen every day and it is starting to become unbelievable.

I have come to accept the amazing amount of connections due to the Internet.

Friends from 60 years ago Google you and find you, friends that through social media are able to connect with each other.

Many of our friends on facebook are out of our past; most would have been lost without the ease of the net.

We had our high school, fiftieth reunion thanks to the Internet. The ability to find people has been geometrically multiplied due to the net.

I can accept that, even though it is something that previous generations could not even conceive of.

This blog has resulted in finding relatives that I did not know even existed, people that have shared a common past, it still knocks me out.

What I find is the connections made through coincidences, even more amazing. OK, maybe that is what six degrees of separation is all about, but there are coincidences that are nuts.

I was on a beach in Porto Heli, Greece, at a bar naturally, and a guy about my age came for a drink. He was obviously English, socks and dessert boots and shorts; I asked were he was from. After a few moments we established that he was in the film business and his wife, on the beach, had been in advertising in London when we were there.

After about ten minutes she asked me if I knew her ex husband, not only did I know him, we worked together in London in the 60s. She and her ex husband had a daughter and she is married to a Greek and has a summer home ten minutes from us. We have all become great friends…no Internet involved in this one.

We have a guy that works on our pool that is from Edipso, on the island of Evia originally; I have relatives there (my grandfather went there after the catastrophe in 1922.) I had lost my cousin’s phone number and asked George if he knew anybody there that might be able to get her phone number. He called his sister who happened to be married to a guy who is a first cousin to my cousin’s daughter. Sounds complicated but it is simple, we now have the number and are in touch.

I think in some bizarre way I am related to George, but he still takes a week to come to the house to do some work. Since we are related he does not treat me better, actually worse. Pros and cons to this thing.

Our architects wife, who is from Chicago, and we used to shop in her fathers grocery store there 45 years ago.
Figure that one out.

There are tons more, my friend from NY whose daughter is dating a Greek guy, whose parents have a house one kilometer from ours.

It just goes on and on, maybe because we lived in so many different countries, maybe because we have met so many people over the years, maybe because I talk to pretty much to everybody I meet, maybe, maybe, maybe.

The more you think about it the weirder it gets.

Who knows, I only know it is great, and I am looking forward to the next surprising connection or coincidence.

Share some of your own coincidences or connections…the weirder the better.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Pay the cab and what's for Din-Din?"

That was the normal greeting when our friend, Stan, arrived to see us in London after one of his exotic holidays.

When the holiday was really exotic he would also ask for a doctor, or at least an appointment. We never inquired too much about why…but the sheets were burned, or at least washed in scalding water a couple of times, after he left.

He had a buddy from college that became a multimillionaire, who would take his six best friends, Stan included, on an incredible holiday every year to exotic places…obviously all expenses paid for, private jet, yachts, great hotels, great food, women…the works, hence the request for a doctor.

Stan was a great friend: he unfortunately died young at 54. He was a very successful New York artist later in life. When we first met, I was a beginning art director and he was a photographer’s rep. He came to the office to show me his photographer’s work, about 3 in the afternoon, we ended up having dinner at our apartment in Brooklyn until about two in the morning. This was the start of a great friendship.

He had bought a parking structure on Downing Street, a mostly Italian area, I am not sure if it was part of little Italy in the village. If you think about it there is no better space for an artist than parking building. No interior walls and tons of space, exactly what you need. He had to do quite a bit of work to make it habitable. I am sorry I do not have one of his tee shirts or overalls, ‘The Downing Street Erection Company” was the name of the company that he started, to do the renovations.

It was a great house, 5 floors of lofts 20 ft. by 100 ft. workspace and amazing living space…loved it.

While in London, he would go to Moss Bros, a unique English store that rented all sorts of formal attire as well as sold vintage military clothes, it also had sort of normal clothes. A great store, I wonder if it still exists.

It does exist as a chain as well, I googled it.

I remember it in the 60’s. Stan would buy Scottish regimental trousers in these wonderful plaids. With a double-breasted blazer, suede shoes, they looked great, although his Mickey Mouse tie kind of ruined the look.

He was a colorful character and always bought and wore outrageous outfits. He told us these bizarre outfits were used mainly when he was called for jury duty. Not entirely true, he often wore these incredible vintage outfits around town. Yellow check suits with two-tone shoes, were not that rare with Stan. I never saw him repeat an outfit. He certainly had enough room for his clothes in his converted parking lot.

When I was in NY, on my yearly trips, Stan would occasionally take me to see various buildings he was interested in, they ranged between empty movie houses and once we even saw a vacant synagogue.

His mother came to see it and she said he obviously fell in love with the railings…he eventually bought his great parking building.

He was looking for a station wagon type car in England to buy and take back to the States…something big and different. The nearest car he found to what he wanted was a Rolls Royce hearse; I do not remember why he didn’t buy it. A shame, it would have completed the parking lot he owned in NY.

He was an amazing character and a good friend, I have a very clear image of him telling us that the Museum of Modern Art as well as the Whitney had accepted his work to be in their collections, the same week, unbelievable.

We will forever miss his arrival in whatever country we were in, and his standard greeting, “ Pay the cab and what’s for din-din?”

Our doctor in London use to ask about him often…I wonder what went on when he went over there?

Google Stanley Landsman and see his works as well as an interview with him.

I never went to see him when he fell ill; I thought it was something minor, I will always regret it.

"Did I go to that High School?"

Reunions are murder. I go there and mistake everybody’s kid for them. I did that at the church youth club’s reunion. I walk in and say hello to the first person I see and call her Cookie and ask how she has been to be told that her mother is Cookie.

It gets worse at our High School reunion, I go, but do not really remember going there as a kid. It is the fiftieth reunion and my attendance at the school is vague. There is a nametag with my high school yearbook photo, so I guess I went there. Two of my good and pretty much only friends from high school insist I went there. They have photos of me and my yearbook picture pretty much proves it.

My memory seems to be in conflict with the facts.

So many American movies celebrate high school. The athletes who remember their glory days, the prom, the glee club and all that stuff is missing from my memory.

I go to the reunion…a bunch of old looking people, some though have their youth showing through and I recognize a few. More proof that I really went there.

I do remember the test to get in; it was harder to get into than Pratt, which supposedly has an exceptionally hard entrance exam. This school that I vaguely remember is SIA the High School of Industrial Art.

Forcing myself, some stuff does come back. A girl I was interested in, way back then, is now a Great-grandmother,
God how does this happen? OK I know how it happens; I mean how does it happen, a great-grandmother.

The school was divided in two buildings, one on 51st street between Lexington and Park; the main building was in the 70s off Third Ave…this was a very urban school. We didn’t have any sort of campus, no gym, no stadium…nothing like the suburban schools, although we did have the city.

In spite of vast gaps in my memory I do remember the gym teacher, he was called the gym teacher but he taught social dancing, mambo and rumba especially (we were a very ethnic school) and also a bit of calisthenics.

I told you we were a very urban school, but in a great neighborhood.

The gym teacher’s name was William Weintraub, I found out he had a square dance band and used the name “Wild Bill Wayne.”

This was great, I was the head of the church youth, the THY, and we were throwing a square dance. I gave the job to the gym teacher - William “Wild Bill Wayne” Weintraub. He guaranteed me an A in gym, first and only time I got an A in gym.

I had some other proof that I went to that school. Throughout the reunion people would come up to me and say “You still drawing horses Greg?”
I still am.

I really went to that school, the most accurate proof was that the great-grandmother that I used to have the hots for, still ignored me.

I was back in high school.