Friday, May 25, 2012

The value of Granny's great baklava

After graduating from Pratt in1959, a bunch of us joined the National Guard to avoid being drafted for two years and going to Viet Nam.

The Guard was only 6 months and you then served in the reserves for what seemed like the rest of your life, meetings once a week, five weekends a year, and two weeks of camp in the summer.

In those days they did not use the National Guard overseas, so I was pretty sure no Viet Nam and no two years in the regular Army.

You could get a job, start your life and career, at that time two years seemed like a lifetime.

To make the whole thing even less noble, I was sent to Fort Dix in New Jersey for basic training and ended up staying there for the full six months, a couple of hours from NY. A pretty good deal, although no bragging rights and no wonderful Army stories about bars in foreign countries, or even bars in Texas, just Jersey.

My Mother and Jeannine’s family, especially her Grandmother acted like I was in the real Army suffering in some God forsaken country, “Granny I’m in Fort Dix, New Jersey, not that much of a God forsaken a place.”

Their concern for me was manifested by sending and bringing food, lots of it. It is a Greek thing.

Koulouria from Mama and Granny’s great baklava was the currency I was dealing with.

One piece of baklava was worth 6 brownies at least; one koulouri got you 2 brownies, two pieces of baklava meant no KP, or guard duty.

Man this stuff was dynamite I could negotiate anything. The baklava was worth it’s weight in gold.

I even thought I could use the baklava to get an early discharge? It was great baklava but unfortunately not that great.

Granny’s baklava made the Army a snap, “thanks Granny.”

Friday, May 18, 2012

“They want you to autograph their menu.”

London in the 6os, San Frediano’s tratoria, very trendy joint, I get this request from the waiter…”those people over there want you to sign their menu.”

 I suddenly feel pretty good, a kid from Coney Island in London and people want my autograph.
They must have seen my latest ad for Esso.

Mario, the waiter leans down and whispers in my ear, “ they think you are Omar Sharif.”

I have a mustache, dark hair and do not look very English, I evidently also look like a Pakistani protester, a guy called Tariq Ali. People don’t ask me for an Ali autograph, they usually yell at me in the street, the politest is “ go back where ya came from you tosser!”

I am evidently mistaken for an Egyptian or a Pakistani, never for some well-known English actor, not even an American actor or personality. I have to speak with my super pronounced Brooklyn accent…much louder.

Back to San Frediano, I sign the menu with a flourish, Omar Sharif your friend.
There are a few menus signed Omar Sharif by me, I hope they do not turn up on Ebay.

I wonder if Omar Sharif was ever mistaken for me?   

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Inside a pyramid

While in Mexico, during the early 90’s, we were shooting a commercial for our GM client. The agency people and the production company would do anything they could to keep me and the head GM client off the shoot. They knew we would get super involved and break their balls (it’s good to be the boss).

At this shoot, we were in Mayan country, previously to keep us out of the way, we were sent on cruises, drives in the mountains, great restaurants, anything to keep us distracted, sometimes successfully sometimes not.

We were sent to Chichen itza, an amazing pyramid; I had been there before and was looking forward to it. We were going to go up a narrow interior stairway that led to a throne room.

Today this stairway is closed because of its narrowness and state of decay.

On the day we visited, the stairway was closed to the public and opened especially for us for a short time. We could go up without too much shoving and pressure. I am claustrophobic so this was a great help. Connections are always nice.

Clint and I started up this dark, narrow, steep staircase made of rough stone steps, dimly lit…very scary. We could imagine ancient kings going up this interior stairway, although God knows why since it led to a tiny interior throne room, no view, nothing.

We finally make it up this narrow tunnel, huffing and puffing all the way, we are not in the shape that the ancient Kings and priests must have been. We entered this small room with the jaguar throne, Clint thinks it looks like a sewing machine…thanks Clint; there goes the romance and the objective of the climb.

We start down and Clint makes a profound observation.

“ The Mayans were amazing people, they were great builders, scientists, advanced astronomers, great artists, they had a culture that lasted thousands of years…you would think that they could have invented the banister?” 

This is said at the top of this narrow, dark, steep staircase, obviously without a banister. I crack up and almost plunge down this preposterous stairway.

As we stagger down, we hear people coming up…they have opened the entrance to tourists. All we can think of, at least if we fall we will have a cushioned landing.

In all of Mexico, on the thousands of pyramids and temples there are no banisters. I wonder why? Perhaps they knew it would make life miserable and dangerous for future tourists, since they would all be mostly white and fat.

This could be the ultimate revenge of the indigenous peoples, no banisters!