Thursday, August 25, 2011

A New York Tokyo?

In 1970 I was sent to our Tokyo office for three months to fill in as Creative Director.
A short time in an amazing place and we have some great memories.

Japan was full of contrasts, just as something made sense and you thought you understood it
…everything changed.

While there a friend asked me if I wanted a pastrami on rye and an egg cream. This may seem like a normal question in New York but not too normal in downtown Tokyo.

I am a kid from Brooklyn, a pastrami on rye sounded great, so where do we get it in Tokyo?

He was an expat and lived in Tokyo for years, if anybody knew where, he certainly did. He took me to a typical street and we entered a building that led to a typical NY deli.

Surly, sarcastic waiters that were Japanese, that in itself was pretty odd.
Corned beef and pastrami in the showcases, rye bread and mustard on display, soda machines and behind it all was Ann Dinkins.
She was a flamboyant woman from New York, maybe even Brooklyn; at least that is what her accent told me.

It turns out, she came to Japan years ago with her husband as an expat, he had died and she remained in Japan. She was very much at home there and decided to make herself even more at home, she opened a deli.
To give it the right atmosphere, Ann trained the waiters to be sarcastic and surly and at times I thought they even had a NY Jewish accent. They would sigh and say” oy vey.”

She told me it was good for business and there was no staff turnover, due to their attitude, they could not get jobs anywhere else.
There is not a great deal of demand in Japan for sarcastic waiters. Good job Ann.

Ann also had the exclusive rights to import meats to Japan; it seems the royal family liked pastrami.

Just one of the bizarre things we enjoyed in Japan in 1970.

Today there is a NY deli, but it is in Disneyland Japan, I bet there are no sarcastic waiters there.

It just is not Ann Dinkins.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Extracting the urine or taking the piss

I like the expression “ extracting the urine”.

I have a friend, a Greek that lived in London for over 40 years,
Instead of saying taking the piss, he says, “ extracting the urine.”
Sounds like a classy way to say that I am bullshitting.

I have a tendency to make stuff up; I suppose it is lying, although I see it as creative and enjoy doing it.

The lies are like, Columbus was Greek, the turkey is an indigenous Greek bird, you can swim after you eat if you ate seafood, stuff like that, not really nasty lies, fun lies.

They are mostly entertaining not harmful. I am about to tell you how to do it; there is a basic simple rule.
All great lies, bullshit, crazy stories, have to have a basis of truth. A germ of truth gets people nodding their heads and sort of accepting the rest, no matter how preposterous, as a matter of fact, the wilder the better.

Don’t swim after you eat…it is ok if you eat seafood, simple version.

Columbus was from the island of Chios, sounds crazy, until you say Chios was part of the kingdom of Genoa, since we have heard that Genoa was the home of Columbus all our lives. Hmmm, could be true.

Turkeys are from Greece and were taken the new world by Columbus, why would one of the best Greek wines, Hadjemichalis use a turkey as his logo if it was not an indigenous bird. I actually know why, so do not write me and tell me why. Also it is called a turkey by mistake since Chios is close to Turkey.

Although one of my favorites is that the famous cold cut Armenian store in Athens, sells great vanilla ice cream.
No touch of truth to make it more acceptable, just a very trusting target. This does not happen often, so you really need a touch of truth normally.

So if you want to make stuff up, it is fun, remember the basics: a touch of truth to make it slightly more logical, and a convincing presentation. You sort of have to believe it yourself, convince yourself, before you can convince others.

As you all know, the ostrich is from the Argolida.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The two Costas go to the Royal Wedding

In Porto Heli, where we live there is one famous Costa. He is the ex king of Greece, Constantine, or sarcastically referred to as Costakis by the locals that are not royalists; the royalists actually refer to him as Your Majesty.

However, there is another Costa, a friend of ours, he is Greek and has lived over 40 years in England and worked at a public, Eton type school. He has retired about a kilometer from us here in the Argolida.

Evidently Kate’s brother went there and invited some of the staff from the school to the wedding, including our Costa. This obviously was pretty exciting for us, and I promptly told the whole town about our Costa going.

So our little village in Greece had two going to the Royal Wedding, and both named Costa.

This had to be unique, cannot imagine any Greek village, even Athens having two Costas going to the wedding.

Off he went, electronic ticket, first class, stayed overnight at the dorms of the school, limo to the wedding.

We were glued to the TV, watched every minute of the festivities hoping to get a glimpse of our Costa, or even the ex King, no such luck, lots of famous people but not the two Porto Heli Costas.

We enjoyed it and were amazed at the manners of the crowds, and wondered what would have happened if they were all Greeks.

The next day we were invited to our Costas house at midday for a drink and mezedes to hear about his amazing trip.

Some other friends were there and we assumed to celebrate Costas return, I also was hoping for some souvenirs from the event.

I, as is my manner, sat next to Costa and asked him a load of questions.

“ Who had the biggest hat?”

“Did the Queen greet you?”

“Did you have good seats?”

“Did you say hello to Elton John?”

“Did any queen say hello?”

I was so involved asking questions, that I never noticed that the rest of our “ friends”, sneaking in, dressed in fake royal gear and waving paper Union Jacks, singing “ we fooled you Greg, we fooled you, Costa never went.”

It finally dawned on me, this was an elaborate joke…and I fell for it, hook, line and sinker. They were all in the know; Jeannine and I were the only suckers. I was being paid back for all my years of practical jokes.

Costa never went, this was mainly his wife’s idea, and quiet, sweet Gwen got me. Who knew she had that side to her, you never really know people.

How do I get back at them? Do I just let them worry and get them when they are least expecting it, or let them anticipate my revenge forever…and maybe not do anything? I have to think about this.

In town at the cafenion, I maintain that Costa went to the wedding, I do not want to make a complete ass of my self.

Hmm…what will be my revenge?