Archive | June, 2011

Writing Wednesday: BWC Church Hopping Column Goes Live in NYC This Summer

29 Jun

While I tend to write a lot about my life as a Greek American here, for the past few years I’ve been writing about art and architecture and faith over at Burnside Writers Collective.  Three years ago, I began writing a column called Church Hopping, in which I visit — most of the time physically but occasionally virtually — churches throughout the world, and write about their incredible history and art.  The Church Hopping column is one of the writing projects I’m the most proud of, and of which the Burnside community has been incredibly supportive of.

That’s why I’m so happy to announce that I’m partnering with Burnside Writers Collective, City Grace Church, and Redeemer Presbyterian Church to create live Church Hopping events this summer!  That means that you can join in on the fun.  Read more about it here and register here.  Space is limited and it’s filling up fast so even though the first event is a month away, I suggest registering asap if you plan on attending.

Recap of My Reading at the InterArts Summer Showcase

28 Jun

 

Friday’s InterArts Summer Showcase was a blast!  So much creativity filled the room.  I left feeling so inspired and wanting to be more experimental and collaborative.

There were ten of us presenting.  Four of us were representing the literary arts — personal essay, poetry, argument — while others were photographers, digital artists, singers, hip-hop artists, painters.  As evidenced from the picture above, one artist made a 3D film.  I was impressed by the quality of the projects and the thought process that had gone behind them.  I bought the poet’s chapbook, and if I were richer I’d love to own some of the art.

We each got eight minutes to present.  I’ll admit it: I was nervous.  I’m not a performer, and even though I write about myself a lot I don’t actually enjoy the spotlight.  But, I knew I had a story worth sharing.  I’m not typically a humor writer, but my story had a few funny moments in it, and I began to relax and enjoy myself as I heard the audience laughing.  When I got to the clincher at the end, I even heard someone audible gasp!

…And then my friends showed up.  I was the first presenter of the evening and even though we didn’t start on time, most of my friends missed my reading entirely.  I felt so bad!  Two of them had gotten stuck in rush hour traffic for two hours, another had cycled an hour and a half from another state, someone else had dragged along a friend who was visiting from out of town, and someone whom I had just met at NYFA‘s literary mingle had gotten stuck at work.  Some of my other friends were there, though, and my always-supportive and encouraging sister was there.  Afterward a group of us went out to a pub, so I got to at least catch up with most of them.  Some of them I hadn’t seen in 7+ months!  I’m so thankful for such great friends!  I know attending an arts event isn’t everyone’s ideal Friday night, and it meant a lot to me that my friends were supportive enough to travel–some of them from other boroughs, some from other states–to support my writing.  Awesome friends!

It’s Been Four Years

24 Jun

 

It’s been four years since I’ve seen my brother.

About five years ago my brother moved to Greece.  He was twenty years old at the time.  He’d been enrolled in undergrad in Boston and decided to move to Greece and go to school there.

I didn’t want my little brother to leave.  I told him he could live with me.  But he left anyway.  I suppose it made sense for him.  The rest of our family was already living there.

I visited the first summer after he moved to Greece.  I intended to visit again the year after that.  I really did.  But, I didn’t make it that year.  And I haven’t make it in the years that have followed.

I have excuses reasons.  Lots of them.  I moved twice during that time period.  One of the moves was an out-of-state move.  (If moving from one side of the George Washington Bridge to the other counts.)  I wanted to travel to more places than just Greece.  I’ve transitioned between three different jobs, making accruing time off from work more difficult.  I started grad school.

The decision not to go to Greece felt right each time.  It seemed “practical.”  The economy was plummeting, and I had to count pennies.  These were years of upheaval, transition, exploration with where I lived and where I worked and what I did in my free time.  But now I wonder how it got to be four years since I’ve seen my brother.  Now I question what being “practical” really means.

 

I’ll be reading from a story about the summer before my brother moved to Greece tonight at Redeemer.  You can register for free to attend.  Hope to see you there! 

MFAism: Hosting Summer Writing Workshop

22 Jun

Even though the MFA writing program is officially on summer break — whoo-hoo! — some of us from the creative-nonfiction writing workshop decided we were having so much fun (or something like that) that wanted to keep on meeting.  Last Tuesday we had our first informal workshop.  It was so nice to catch up with everyone and to chat about our writing.

As I’ve alluded, everyone in my classes always recommends I read David Sedaris when they find out I write about growing up Greek American.  I do get a kick out of David Sedaris, but it’s his sister Amy Sedaris who captured my heart with her book I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. There’s just something about us Greek women — we love hosting and feeding people.  I barely had anyone over during the semester so I was super-excited to volunteer hosting the writing workshop in my apartment.

Since my classmates have been giving me feedback all semester on the Greek American memoir I’m writing — and since I’m the Queen of Theme Parties — I of course prepared Greek meze for them.  I served feta cheese (imported from Greece!  I’m stimulating the Greek economy!), sliced tomatoes with sea salt, pita, red pepper & eggplant dip, dried apricots, and almonds.  The other writers graciously brought delicious homemade (!) scones and sumptuous red wine.  I pretty much gorged!

We had a great conversation about nonfiction vs. fiction writing and talked about the role of blogging in our writing.  Then we spent some time critiquing each other’s works.  I got helpful feedback on a short reflection I’d written about my experience at the 2011 Gabby Awards.  I really enjoyed reading their new pieces too.  Everyone has such interesting stories to tell!

Now I’ve got to get to work on the next chapter to submit!

In the meantime, if anyone has any tips on how to run a writing workshop, please post in the comments section.

Recap of Reading at The Houndstooth Pub

21 Jun

 

 

 

 

 

Last Monday, June 13, I had the privilege of reading at the Houndstooth Pub.  My friend Jane, a fiction writer, was inspired by the Moth to create the storytelling event.

Here’s a bit about the Moth:

The Moth is an acclaimed not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. It is a celebration of both the raconteur, who breathes fire into true tales of ordinary life, and the storytelling novice, who has lived through something extraordinary and yearns to share it. At the center of each performance is, of course, the story – and The Moth’s directors work with each storyteller to find, shape and present it.

Since its launch in 1997, The Moth has presented thousands of stories, told live and without notes, to standing-room-only crowds worldwide.

Moth shows are renowned for the great range of human experience they showcase. Each show starts with a theme, and the storytellers explore it, often in unexpected ways. Since each story is true and every voice authentic, the shows dance between documentary and theater, creating a unique, intimate, and often enlightening experience for the audience.

Moth stories dissolve socio-economic barriers, expose vulnerabilities, and quietly suggest ways to overcome challenges and see with new eyes.

Jane asked each of us to tell a story of an act of love.  This sounds easy, but it’s not.  A story about love itself maybe isn’t that hard.  We all have stories about the feeling of love, but stories of actually acting out love?  Not as easy to come by.  In the end, I shared a portion of an essay I wrote about people in my life who have taught me by example how to love others.

What’s your story of an act of love?

 

PS: I’m giving a super-super short reading this Friday at the Redeemer Summer Showcase.

Gripster: 2011 Coney Island Mermaid Parade & Greek Mermaid Myths

20 Jun

I hit the beach for the first time this year for the 2011 Coney Island Mermaid Parade.  I’ve been going for a few years now, so I was kind of surprised when friends asked me what it is.  It’s pretty much what it sounds like.  It’s kind of like an all-mermaid version of the Village Halloween Parade.  A lot of the outfits are scandalous, but the parade is so much fun!

The Coney Island Mermaid Parade is the world’s largest art parade.  It was founded in 1983 by the same not-for-profit arts organization that produces the Coney Island Circus Sideshow.  The official website describes the Coney Island Mermaid Parade:

The Mermaid Parade celebrates the sand, the sea, the salt air and the beginning of summer, as well as the history and mythology of Coney Island, Coney Island pride, and artistic self-expression. The Parade is characterized by participants dressed in hand-made costumes as Mermaids, Neptunes, various sea creatures, the occasional wandering lighthouse, Coney Island post card or amusement ride, as well as antique cars, marching bands, drill teams, and the odd yacht pulled on flatbed.

You probably know that Neptune is the Roman version of the Greek god Poseidon, the god of the ocean.  (If you’re curious about Poseidon, check out my blog entry “Gripster: Portlandia, Hipsters, and Greek Myth.”)  What I was curious about was mermaid Greek mythology.  I always think of the sirens that the cunning Odysseus outwitted as mermaids, when in fact they’re actually half woman, half bird.  So what does Greek mythology actually say about mermaids?

According to myth, Alexander the Great’s half-sister is a mermaid.  Thessalonike was born to King Philip II of Macedon and his concubine, Nicesipolis, in 252 or 345 BC.  According to legend, Alexander the Great bathed Thessalonike’s hair in life-giving water that he retrieved on his quest to find the Fountain of Immortality.  When her older brother died when she was only nineteen years old, Thessalonike tried to drown herself.  In death, Thessalonike transformed into a mermaid, according to legend.

Mermaid Thessalonike lived in the Aegean.  She stopped ships, asking, “Ζει ο Βασιλιάς Αλέξανδρος?” (“Is King Alexander alive?”)

If the passing ship answered, “Ζει και βασιλεύει και τον κόσμο κυριεύει” (He lives and rules the world), she calmed the waters.

If the ship answered anything less positive, she caused a severe storm that would spell death to all sailors.

I took some 2011 Coney Island Mermaid Parade pictures.

I hear 2011 is the year of the mermaid trend.

2011 Gabby Awards: The After Party

14 Jun

Are you sick of hearing about the 2011 Gabby Awards yet?  I’m going to skip over the actual awards ceremony itself because as the main event it’s already gotten press coverage elsewhere.  What I want to talk about now is the after party!  I mean, let’s be honest here, most of the time when you’re at home on your couch watching the Academy Awards and the Grammy Awards you have to sit through an awful lot of boring acceptance speeches.  Don’t you really wish you could find out who’s dancing with whom at the after parties?  I have to hand it to the Gabby Awards, though: instead of a bunch of “I’d like to thank my publicist” speeches, the winners shared beautiful and tender stories of immigration and growing up Greek American.  I was thoroughly engaged and inspired.

After the 2011 Gabby Awards ceremony on Ellis Island, we boarded a ferry to Chelsea Piers.  You may recall I recently spent an afternoon exploring Chelsea Piers.  Not surprisingly, the awards ceremony had run waaaaaaay over schedule.  Hey, we were on Greek time, what do you expect?  We’re notorious for being late.  We were tired and hungry and probably felt a tinge of what our Greek ancestors felt when they were coming into Ellis Island all those years ago.  The pitch-black sky was perfect for witnessing the surprise Gabby Awards founder Gregory Pappas had arranged: the Empire State Building lit up in the colors of the Greek flag!

When we got to Chelsea Piers at 11:30 pm, Greek American Iron Chef Cat Cora had prepared a special buffet dinner for us.  Cat Cora was raised in Jackson, Mississippi, so her food is a unique pairing of Greek and Southern flavors.  Unfortunately for me (a vegetarian), both Greek and Southern cooking tend to focus on meat.  My tablemates told me the moussaka was delicious.  I particularly enjoyed Cat Cora’s melitzanosalata (a flavorful eggplant spread) and her more innovative asagio orzo.

If you go to Cat Cora’s website, she offers some free recipes.  My dad is obsessed with avocados (you’ll have to wait to read my memoir for the story behind this) so I want to tell him about her avocado tzatzkiki spread.

I have to admit, though, I have a bit of a sweet tooth, so even before I checked out the main course I was at the dessert table!  And it was to the dessert table I kept returning.  There were too-pretty-to-eat cookies by Eleni’s, a bakery I’ve languished in many times.  There were tiny squares of bliss by Chocolat Moderne.  I’m a sucker for gourmet chocolates.  What I loved about Chocolate Moderne, founded by Greek American chocolatier Joan Coukos, is that the gourmet chocolate company invokes classic Greek flavors in their chocolates.  Does Kalamata olives and chocolate sounds like a strange flavor combination?  It’s not.  It’s ammmmazing!  The dessert table also featured the best cupcake I have ever tasted, by the Greek American sisters Katherine Kallinis and Sophie LaMontagne behind Georgetown Cupcakes.  Seriously, Magnolia Bakery has nothing on Georgetown Cupcakes.  My sister’s a huge cupcake fan (not quite to the extent that my dad is obsessed with avocados but let’s just say she’s done a lot “research” into finding the best cupcakes in NYC) so I’m thinking we have to take a roadtrip to DC this summer to meet these Greek American cupcake sisters and eat their cupcakes!

As we ate all the delicious food and drank hearty glasses of pinot noir the band played Greek music.  Glykeria took to the stage to perform.  She is so cute and put on a great show.  It wasn’t long before many of us had pushed the tables and white couches away to start dancing.  Some people even got up on the tables and started dancing.  If you’ve ever been to a Greek restaurant or club, you know this is not at all uncommon.

But did I mention the dessert table??

Perks of Being a Wallflower

13 Jun

An author dropped by my office the other day with flowers! Aren’t they gorgeous?!

 

 

 

 

In case you missed them, here are some flower-related posts on Protomayia and the Feast of Flowers.

2011 Gabby Awards: Fashion Report

10 Jun

Euxaristo to all of you who have been checking out my Gabby Award coverage!  It was truly an amazing event.

Last Friday’s events for Gabby Awards Lifetime Achievement winner neon artist Stephen Antonakos and jewelry designer Konstantino were just precursors to Saturday’s main event — the presentation of the 2011 Gabby Awards!

I slept in as much as I could on Saturday morning — hey, a girl needs her beauty rest if there are going to be lots of cameras around! — but I was too excited to stay in bed.  I tried to Skype my parents in Greece — I’d been going back and forth on what to wear, and my mom has a great eye for fashion and style so I wanted her opinion  — but they were out.  Fortunately, I had booked an appointment with my hairstylist, Wendy, who did a great job on my hair!  Finally, after I’d already gotten dressed and was about to head out the door, my parents Skyped me.  The dress was Mom-approved!  It had a bit of a vintage feel to it.  It was a black chiffon number with white polka dots.  It had a deep V-neck and an asymmetrical cut.  I wore it with a simple strand of pearls to kick up the 50s flair.  For makeup, I wanted a fresh, springtime look so I wore Stila lip glaze in guava, which is what a makeup artist had used on me during Fashion’s Night Out.  I spritzed on Zara Creme eau du toilette, which my sister gave me for my birthday, and then I was out the door!

Probably one of my favorite aspect of going to the Gabby Awards was seeing what everyone was wearing!  I have to say, I was quite impressed with the men — they really picked some stylin’ suits and tuxes. Gabby Award founder Gregory Pappas wins the award for coolest tie!  Meletis Koropoulis wore a sharp suit and hipster-ish glasses … perhaps we can add him to our growing “gripster” list?

Of course the women looked gorgeous, as well.  Most opted for floor-length gowns in bright colors — canary yellow, azure, and cherry red were popular.  Many wore, not surprisingly, goddess gowns.  There were also some sparkling numbers.  Melina Kanakaredes dazzled in a patterned, one-shoulder dress.  Cat Cora looked spicy in a red dress with a fantastic neckline.  Jane Monzures was looking anything but plain in plum.

Everyone looked gorgeous!  You can view photos from the event on the Gabby Awards website and on the Gabby Awards Facebook page.

2011 Gabby Awards: Official Welcome Salon

9 Jun

After the reception to honor the Gabby‘s Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Stephen Antonakos, I dashed over to the Gabby Award’s Official Welcome Salon, which was taking place a little further uptown, that same night.  Here was the teaser for the event:

Official Welcome Salon hosted by the Greek America Foundation featuring a personal appearance by internationally acclaimed jewelry designer Konstantino, and a rare opportunity to see the designer’s entire collection and purchase men’s and ladies’ items at a discount. Reception is complimentary for all Gabby Awards ticket holders and includes top-shelf premium open bar and heavy appetizers.

It was held at the Press Lounge at Ink48 Hotel, a Klimpton Hotel, located at 653 Eleventh Avenue at 48th Street.  As a writer, I find the story behind the hotel particularly inspiring.  The Klimpton Hotel chain was founded by Bill Klimpton, who first worked as a typewriter salesman and who opened Ink48 Hotel in an old printing house:

A former printing house located where 11th Avenue meets 48th Street, Ink48’s occupants have a long history of making a lasting imprint. A one-of-a-kind urban retreat with an inviting roof-top lounge, open-air gardens, and panoramic views of Time Square and the Hudson River, Ink48 offers special amenities and services to illustrate the unique signature of each guest. You’ll be invited and encouraged to make your mark in life while Ink48 provides the indelible inspiration.

The open bar served a variety of Metaxa cocktails.  The distilled Greek spirit, founded by Spyros Metaxa in 1888, was a welcome ingredient in such drinks as the Greek Lemonade and the delicious Greek Mojito, which I tried.  You can find more recipes — like Fig Heaven, which wasn’t offered and I really want to try — on the Metaxa website.

Inside was crowded, as Greek America’s movers and shakers mingled.  I may or may not be in the background of an interview that was taking place….

Outside on the rooftop was an incredible panorama of the New York City skyline.  I mean incredible!  As in, hard to believe.  It reminded me of being at the Grand Canyon a few years ago and thinking it was all a beautiful mirage.  The Manhattan skyline, like the Grand Canyon, looked like a movie backdrop.

 

Photo by Annie

 

 

 

I stayed outside enjoying the scenery, rather than tempt myself with Konstantino‘s jewels.  Athens-born Konstantino is recognized throughout the world as a famous jewelry designer.  If anyone’s looking to impress me, you can get me the blue topaz ring from Konstantion’s Clio collection or one of the cross-shaped rings from his Classic collection.