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The Starving Artist Eats Burgers on the BBQ

17 Jun



Summertime was all about BBQing when I was a kid growing up in New Jersey. (So much so that it even found its way into my memoir!) We spent many humid nights outside under a canopy of green leaves and stars, swatting away mosquitoes, as we ate food from the BBQ. Most of the year, my family didn’t eat dinner altogether too often because my father worked long hours and got home late—and because he didn’t eat the same “American” foods that the rest of us ate. In the summer, when it was too hot to turn on the oven, he’d fire up the grill.

Now maybe it’s a regionalism, but I recently BBQed with someone not from the TriState area and discovered that “BBQ” to them meant something entirely different. BBQ to them is its own separate category of food. It’s a big deal. An art. What I call “BBQ,” they think is just basic “grilling.” To my ears, grilled anything sounds like something off a health-food menu. As in, you order grilled chicken when you’re on a diet, even though what you really want to eat is fried chicken.

But grilling doesn’t have to be equated with flavorless meat topped with zero-calorie iceberg lettuce. Nope, we made stuffed burgers. We stuffed it with Fontina cheese and mushrooms and onions and peppers and so much deliciousness. Or at least it looked delicious to me. As a vegetarian, I made due with veggie burgers luxuriously slathered in Stubbs BBQ sauce. My skinny little soy burgers weren’t nearly as exciting as the juicy stuffed burger. Sigh.

I just came across a recipe for a Feta-Stuffed BLT Burger, and my Greek American heart skipped a beat. I may not be able to eat it as a vegetarian, but for all you Greek cheese-loving carnivores out there I thought I’d pass it along: Feta-Stuffed BLT Burger recipe. And for those of us who abstain from meat, I’ll offer this alternative Greek vegetarian burger recipe:

  • BBQ your favorite veggie burger (I like Boca burgers) per the directions on the box
  • Grill some onions
  • Lightly grill a piece of pita bread
  • Once everything is grilled, place the veggie burger in the pocket of the pita
  • Stuff the pita with the BBQed onions
  • Also stuff the pita with a salad of feta, tomatoes, and cucumbers soaked in olive oil and oregano

Eat and enjoy!

This is part of a new series I’m doing called “The Starving Artist.” I used to do posts called “Tasty Tuesday,” but I’m switching it up a little now to focus on budget-friendly recipes for writers.

I’m always on the hunt for vegetarian-friendly Greek foods for the BBQ, so if you have any suggestions please post them in the comments section.

Also, did you know Greeks have a whole holiday devoted to BBQed meat?

If you’re not a meat-eater, you might also like this Greek vegetarian BBQ idea.


I’m Reading from My Memoir at The Penny Farthing

29 May


I’m super excited to share with you that I’m reading this upcoming Monday, June 2, 2014, with one of my favorite groups and venues!

That’s right — I’m reading at Beyond the Mic, a C3 Storytellers event, hosted at The Penny Farthing (103 3rd Ave., downstairs in the speakeasy), right here in New York City.

The C3 Storytellers have been supportive of my writing for awhile now. The first time I read with them back in 2012, one of the other poets literally made up a poem on the spot about my memoir. You can read it here. Then the next time I read with them, I read from the Kerouac biography I was coauthoring that hadn’t yet come out. C3 Storytellers’ and The Penny Farthing’s support earned them a place in the acknowledgments of Burning Furiously Beautiful. Needless to say, I’m grateful for welcoming groups like C3 Storytellers and artist-friendly venues like The Penny Farthing.

I’ll be reading a different section from my memoir-in-progress again this time around. I’m just one of many people who will be sharing work. I’ve always been very inspired by the other artists as well so you’ll be in for a treat hearing them. Doors open at 7pm. The event is free, though there’s usually a basket for donations (no, they don’t go to me); and you can purchase food and drinks. I’d love to see you there!

* * *

My memoir is still a work in progress, but you can purchase the Kerouac biography here.

* * *

Check out the appearance section on my website for other upcoming readings and workshops. I love giving back and encouraging other writers, and I co-lead a free writing workshop once a month through Redeemer (the next one is June 23). If you’re interested in having me give a reading or writing workshop, contact me at snikolop {@}



How Antonin Artaud Came to Influence the Beats

24 Apr

Antonin_Artaud_jeune_b_SDAntonin Artaud had great fashion sense.

Bronx-born writer Carl Solomon joined the United States Maritime Service in 1944 and traveled overseas to Paris, where he was encountered Surrealism and Dadaism. When he came back to the US, he voluntarily admitted himself to a New Jersey psychiatric hospital as Dadaist expression of being beat, being conquered, being overpowered. There, he received shock therapy instead of the lobotomy he requested. He wrote about the experience in Report from the Asylum: Afterthoughts of a Shock Patient.

At the psychiatric hospital, Solomon met Allen Ginsberg. (You can read about how Ginsberg ended up there in Burning Furiously Beautiful.) He introduced the young poet to the poetry of Antonin Artaud, a French poet of Greek ancestry (his parents were from Smyrna) whom he had seen give a screaming poetry reading in Paris. Artaud had written the first Surrealist film, The Seashell and the Clergyman (1928), and produced Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s The Cenci in 1935. The year after that, he went to Mexico, living with the native Tarahumara people and experimenting with peyote, before Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs would pack their bags for Mexico. Another year passed and Artaud was found penniless in Ireland, where he was arrested and deported. Back in France, he was sent to various psychiatric hospitals, where he was subjected to electroshock therapy. Notably, in his earlier years, Artaud had spent time in a sanatorium, where he read none other than Arthur Rimbaud.

Solomon wrote Report from the Asylum with Artaud in mind, while Ginsberg wrote “Howl” with both Artaud and Solomon in mind.

Once again, I could not find any of his poems in public-domain English translation. So, here’s a quote I found interesting and relevant from Artaud’s prose piece The Theater and Its Double:

“I cannot conceive any work of art as having a separate existence from life itself.”

You can read one of his poems, “Jardin Noir,” here.

*4/24/14: The subject’s name was originally misspelled and has now been corrected. Thanks to my reader for pointing that out!

Victory Hellas!

25 Mar


Happy Greek Independence Day!

Find out about Agia Lavra, the church where the revolution began, in my Church Hopping column on Burnside Writers Collective.

And read my previous post on the history of March 25 being Greek Independence Day here.

White Trash Uncut: The Resource Magazine Interview with Christopher Makos

20 Mar



Around the same time that Jack Kerouac packed his rucksack and went on the road, Christopher Makos was born into a Greek American family in Kerouac’s hometown. In the June 2013 issue of That’s, Ned Kelly reported:

Christopher Makos was born in 1948 in Lowell, Massachusetts, the birthplace of pioneering Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac; a heritage he was oblivious of in his youth. “Growing up in Lowell, I wasn’t aware of anything, except how to leave,” he says. “How to grow up fast and figure out how to leave.”

Sounds pretty Beat to me!

Makos went on to live in California and then, after high school, moved to New York and, later, Paris. It was there that he became an apprentice to the esteemed Man Ray. Back in New York City, he photographed the scene on the Lower East Side—Beat writer William S. Burroughs, the Ramones, Patti Smith, David Bowie, Lou Reed, and Debbie Harry are just a few of the icons who ended up in his book White Trash. Though it was the ’70s by this point, it’s got it’s Beat Generation connections. (If you’re interested in reading up more on this, I’d recommend Victor Bockris’ Beat Punks.)

Makos became friends with Andy Warhol, who called him the “most modern photographer in America.”

The latest incarnation of this seminal punk photography book, White Trash Uncut, is coming out in May 2014 (published by Glitterati Incorporated), and Resource Magazine’s Aria Isberto caught up with the Greek-American photographer to talk about the underground scene, what it takes to get published, and what kind of camera he uses. You can read it here.

Interested in my writing for Resource Magazine? Check out:::

Read more of my Lowell posts here. Among my favorites are:::

Read about other Greek Americans I’ve written about on my blog. Here’s a few selections:::

Which Greek American do you want to see me write about next?!

Clean Monday

3 Mar

Go home and wash up.
Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings
so I don’t have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong.
Learn to do good.
Work for justice.
Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.

~Isaiah 1: 13-17

In the Greek Orthodox faith today is Καθαρά Δευτέρα — Clean Monday. Clean Monday is to Greek Orthodox believers what Ash Wednesday is to Catholic believers. It’s the start of Great Lent. Well, technically it begins at sunset the Sunday before.

Lent is thought of as a time of abstaining. We fast from meat and dairy. But it is more than that. It is also a time of taking on new, better habits. Today we not only wash ourselves from our past wrongdoings, but we work on behalf of those who need a helping hand.

The Mardi Gras of Greece

28 Feb


This weekend is the big Carnival weekend in Greece. Don’t let New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro get all the glory. Patras is the number 3 for Carnival.

Usually you can make it to more than one Carnival because Greek Orthodox follow the Julian calendar, while Catholics use the new, Gregorian, calendar. However, this year our calendars coincide.

Carnival is basically a time to many go wild right before the seriousness of the 40-day fast of Great Lent leading up to the Crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Though it’s certainly tied to Orthodox Christianity, practicing Orthodox believers don’t participate in its more reckless aspects that are tied to Dionysus. The parades and floats, though? Those are fun!

Lack of Translation in America Is “Shameful,” Says Lahiri

26 Feb


Jhumpa Lahiri criticized the American literary world as “shameful the lack of translation, the lack of energy put into translation in the American market.” The Indian American author said this on the panel about global literature at the Jaipur Literature Festival that I blogged about earlier, when I remarked on Xiaolu Guo’s sentiments that American literature is “overrated.”

I agree with Lahiri that our reading preferences in America are too inward focused. Ideally, we’d all be able to read in at least a second language, like Lahiri, who apparently hasn’t read anything in English in over two years. Good for her, but I’m a Greek school dropout. When I was in high school, I used to read Spanish decently, but I unfortunately haven’t kept it up and nowadays only read the Spanish advertisements in the subway station. Sometimes I tell myself one day I’ll go back to school to really study a language, but that day hasn’t come yet. It’s not that I don’t think it’s important. It’s that I know my limitations, and as horrible as it is to admit this learning another language just isn’t a priority at the moment.

That pains me especially when it comes to contemporary Greek literature. I am quite curious about the literary trends in Greece right, particularly in how they treat the economic crisis. I’ve read some translations of contemporary Greek works, but the truth is they’re hard to come by.

Translation in general is, as Lahiri pointed out, not a priority for American readers. Maybe because for many, reading isn’t a priority. With the difficulties the publishing industry has faced, it feels sacrilegious to condemn them for not publishing more translations. I do want to applaud one publishing house I’ve been keeping my eye on for the past few years: Europa Editions. Here’s why:

Europa Editions was founded in 2005 by Sandro Ferri and Sandra Ozzola Ferri, who are also the owner-publishers of Rome-based Edizioni E/O, one of Europe’s most prestigious independent publishing houses. Our idea was to capitalize on Edizioni E/O’s decades-long experience to bring fresh voices to the American market and provide quality English editions of international literature by enlisting some of the best translators in the business. Our appearance would be distinct, incorporating both European and U.S. jacket design standards, reflecting our conviction that books today must be pleasing to the senses as well as to the mind.  Our catalog  is eclectic, for we believe that dialogue between nations and cultures is of vital importance and that this exchange is facilitated by literature chosen not only for its ability to entertain and fascinate, but also to inform and enlighten.

Also, can I make a bit of a suggestion for those interested in translation? If there’s a note from the publisher or translator, read it! It’s fascinating and eye opening to read about the decisions the translator grappled with when bringing a foreign-language work to an American audience.

What contemporary Greek authors should I be reading right now? Where’s a good place to find Greek works translated into English?

Also, you might enjoy:


This Year, Our Calendars Unite!

25 Feb

“Are you in a cult?” my friend once asked me.

My friend and I led a Protestant ministry for young adults, and I had mentioned that I actually celebrate Easter on a different day than most Protestants. Growing up, I had always celebrated Easter at the Greek Orthodox Church. Granted it was the only time of year my family went to the Greek Church (we went to a Protestant church the rest of the year), but we were pretty adamant about that being Easter.

No, I’m not in a cult, I sighed, aggravated that she would think that. In fact, there’s much more tradition and practical reason for celebrating Easter when I do.

The Greek Orthodox Church follows the old calendar system, the Julian calendar. Protestant and Catholics later decided to follow the new Gregorian calendar. What this means, though, is that sometimes Protestants and Catholics celebrate Easter before Jewish observers celebrate Passover. And if you know anything about these religions at all, you know that that doesn’t actually make a lot of sense since Jesus’ Last Supper is suggested to be a Passover meal.

This year, however, our calendars happen to coincide!

…I guess that means no discounted Easter candy for me this year.


  • For a very thorough explanation on the calendar differences by an esteemed authority, I recommend this article by Dr. Lewis J. Patsavos.
  • For a more conversational approach yet also thorough, I recommend “A Tale of Two Easters” by Borgna Brunner.

The Smell of Meat Lofting in the Air

20 Feb


Mmm… smell that smoky aroma? It can only mean one thing! Today is that special Greek holiday known as Tsiknopempti. Literally, it’s Charred Meat Thursday.

Yes, that’s right. We have a whole holiday devoted eating meat. Tsiknopempti is the preamble to Great Lent. Basically, you eat a whole lot of meat now because you’re going to be fasting for a long time. Longer, in fact, than the 40 days of Great Lent, since the meat fast starts ten days before that.

Do you fast?

Previous posts on Tsiknopempti:

Happy Tsiknopempti!

Hello, Carnival; Good-bye, Meat