A few nights ago after a long day at work, I came home and treated myself to a few deconstructed Greek martinis (tsipouro, Kalamata olives) and sharp barreled Feta cheese.
About an hour later I called it a night and started making my way up the stairs to wash up and get ready for bed. Half way up the stairs, my right foot didn’t quite make the contact it should’ve with a step and I stumbled. I yelled out, “OPA”.
The very next day my mother in law is at her daughter’s house (I live there too). Because there was one dirty glass in the sink, she had to wash it. With speed that Wonder woman would be jealous of, she grabs the glass. It slipped from her fingers and broke and she yells “OPA”.
On a separate occasion my teenage daughter and her friend are whispering something to each other. At the end of their conversation my daughter shocked says to her friend, “OPA RE”.
Three unrelated incidence where OPA was used and I start contemplating about OPA and it’s many uses. OPA is used when one makes a sudden move, if one startles you, or if you don’t like what one is saying and you want them to stop. It’s also used at dances and when one comes to a euphoric state called kefi. No matter how hard you try to explain to a non-Greek, he won’t get it’s absolute meaning.
Take Greek restaurants for instance. On the menu there’s OPA shrimp, OPA fries and my absolute favorite… saganaki OPA. Every time a customer orders the saganaki, the waiter yells from the top of his lungs, OPA! FELLOW GREEK RESTAURANTEURS: If I hear one more freakin’ OPA I will get up on the table and scream from the top of my lungs. OXI!
Since I’m talking about Greek restaurants, how about when you get up to go to the bathroom because the σκορδαλιά has too much garlic. I forgot to lock the bathroom door once at restaurant. A fellow πατριώτη who had 2 bowls of φασολάδα came in and opened the door thinking there’s nobody there. In unison startled, we both say “OPA”.
OPA is also used to prevent accidents. Forget All state Insurance, we Greeks don’t need it. You see a car trying to pull out of a parking spot who’s driver didn’t see the Mercedes at the church lot and is going to hit it? Scream “OPA RE” and watch the vehicle come to a complete stop.Then there’s what I call the “Greek-American OPA” where Greek kids similar to my daughter use OPA at every opportunity especially if they had too much retsina at the Greek dance.
One day I was watching one of those cooking shows when the line cooks raised their hands and for no apparent reason all screamed “OPA”.Whatever the reasons, one thing is for sure: We Greeks live life to it’s fullest. We’re an emotional bunch and words like OPA, κέφι and φιλότιμο are not easily translated.
We work and play hard, love (and hate) even harder and go thru the day with all the laughs, the cries and all the drama that life throws at us. I think that certain things are embedded in our DNA and yes, I will be the first to joke about it. But just recently, a customer of mine came to Nova Grill and said that he had just attended a Greek baptism for a Greek friend’s child.
He said he was “blown away”, not only by the party that followed, but of the baptism itself.“We don’t have that” he said. When I said to him that Greek families are like the Cosa Nostra, controlling your every move. He came back with, “your culture is so rich and you Greeks have this sense of family. You might not see it, but you all stick together”. I think to myself, τι λέει αυτός?
That evening as I’m pulling into my driveway I noticed that the yard was clear of all the leaves and broken tree limbs. I went into the house and I told my wife that the the yard looked great”. “My dad came today and cleaned it”, she said. On the kitchen counter I noticed a big bowl of χυλοπίτες. “Your mom brought them for the kids”, the wife says.”Good night” my young one tells us as she”s getting ready to go to bed. “Pappou will be here at 6:30 in the morning to drive me to school. I have an early student council meeting”.
I thought of what the ξένο was telling me that day and then I remembered an incident that happened years ago. that I took for granted and as something that wasn’t”t that big a deal but 15 years later I”m still reminded of it by my friends.
One Saturday night two neighbor friends and I are enjoying a cigar and some alcoholic beverages on my deck. Around Midnight, I remembered that it was Greek night at the club with live music. “Let’s go for a drink guys”. My friends looked at each other and thought why not. I turn to my wife and said “Stella, John, Dan and I are heading out”. She looks at me and says “I’m coming too”. “What about the kids” I said. She immediately grabs the cordless phone and calls her mom who was at our house in less than 10 minutes. Both of my friends”jaws were on the deck floor.” Only Greeks can pull something like that off. This would of never happened in an American household” said John. As it turns out being Greek is not that bad after all, OPA!