The late Rev. George Dimopulos, a true scholar and gentleman, who was the parish priest at St. Demetrios GOC in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, once told me a story of the time he traveled to Alaska. He ended up in a small town and asked a local where a good place to eat was and he pointed to a small diner. When he entered the diner he saw some of the tale-tell signs… photo of the Parthenon, a komboloi, a small Greek flag, you know the drill.
He asked the waitress if the owner was Greek and she said yes. He asked if she would tell the owner that Father George is here and would like to see him. In a few minutes the owner, with an apron on and drying his hands on it came out and upon seeing Father George, hugged and kissed him on both cheeks. The two men sat down and for the next two hours ate a huge meal and spoke at length. Afterwards, Father George said he needed to leave and catch his flight while the diner owner needed to get back to the kitchen. After more hugs and kisses, pats on the back, and a “doggy” bag for Father to have on his trip, the owner went back into the kitchen and Father George turned to leave, but the waitress stopped him and asked, “Are you related to the owner?” Father George replied, “No.”
The waitress then asked, “Well, how do you know him?” Father George answered, “I don’t. I just met him.” The waitress was shocked. “How could you not know him?” she questioned. “You hugged and kissed each other like long lost friends. You ate and talked for two hours. I don’t get it.”
Father George smiled and in his calming way answered, “My child, we are both Greeks and that’s what Greeks do.”
Father George told me that story many years ago but I always remembered it. Something about Greeks, no matter where they are in the world. We are just one big happy family!
I’m sure you have had the same experience as I have. You’re on a trip and waiting at a foreign airport to board the plane. You glance over a few seats at some people. Your “Greek” antennas” goes up like My Friendly Martian, and you say to yourself, “I bet they’re Greek.” You lean over to eavesdrop and then you smile and think, “Did he just say Melomakarona?” Only he didn’t use the word “Melomakarona” – understand? Yes, he’s definitely Greek and you lean over and say “Yia’sou,” and within five minutes you know what “horio” his family is from, what business he owns, how many brothers and sisters he has and where in the world they are, who he is related to and you end up knowing some of them! He tells you that if you’re ever in Argentina, to visit him. It’s not on your list of countries to visit, but heck, why not! We are just one big happy family!
I was in Hawaii and there was a “Mad Greek Restaurant.” I found out the Greek-born owner was from New Jersey, where I use to live. I got the “Greek” discount for the gyro I bought. My friends and I walked into a “cowboy” store on Bourbon Street in New Orleans and tried on cowboy hats – why did I need a cowboy hat, I don’t know, there are no cowboys in Philly. But, the owner heard me speaking Greek to my friends and he smiled, “Ya’all Ellinas?” he added. Of course we were and the four of us walked out with brand new cowboy hats… with the Greek discount. Efharisto, ya’all.
Even in Greece there is the Greek discount. It’s horrible. One price for the “xeni” and one price for Greeks, whether you are born there or not. This is not a good thing… except, of course, when I get the Greek discount then it’s a great thing. I love the Greek discount. Of course, it’s because We are just one big happy family!
Many years ago, my cousin, uncle, and myself caught an early flight from Philadelphia to Toronto for a relative’s wedding. We were late and as we ran through the airport, the stewardess was waiving us to hurry up (in those days they held the plane for you). I was carrying my bouzouki and as I stepped on the plane, there were only about ten passengers, including us! There were three gentlemen, all with large moustaches, sitting in one row and as I passed, they yelled out, “Hey file, can you play a zeibekiko!” They were Greeks. I played a zeibekiko – at 30,000 feet. Aren’t Greeks great!
You’re driving through another State and the car in front of you has a komboloi hanging from the rear-view mirror, or better, yet, there is a “Greece” or “Hellas” sticker on the back. You pull up and when the passengers look over, you point to your komboloi and give them the thumbs up. They roll down the window and you’re doing 70 mph while discussing who your relatives and who knows whom.
So next time you’re somewhere, anywhere, and your Greek antennas go up, because you know that family across from you is Greek, think of that hit song by Sister Sledge, “We Are Family,” and remember that we are just one big happy family!
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