Tag Archives: my sister

“Are We Gonna Let the Elevator Bring Us Down?”

21 Apr
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My mom’s from Minneapolis so while most kids were growing up on Disney tunes, I grew up on Prince’s “When Doves Cry” and “I Would Die 4 U.” Back in the early 80s when 1999 seemed impossibly far away, we would go crazy in the basement to “Purple Rain” while my mom vacuumed.

Years later, my sister and brother used to repeatedly quote the Dave Chapelle episode where Prince served pancakes.

“Why don’t you purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka?”

I’m saddened to hear the news of Prince‘s passing today. His songs were the soundtrack to my childhood (along with Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder) and will live on.

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How Is It Possible that Close to Half of College Graduates Don’t Read?

23 Sep
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“I’m not as big of a reader as you,” my brother said to me over the phone.
Dismissive of his reading habits as he was, my brother is a reader. He was telling me about a book he by a woman he’d heard about on a podcast. Felicia Day‘s You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). This wasn’t a once-in-a-blue-moon event. He’s not a prolific reader by any means, but he loves a good book. When I’d asked him the year before what he wanted for Christmas, he wanted a Malcolm Gladwell book. Back when he lived in Greece, he asked me to bring him books. He always wanted Dr. Pepper, but I couldn’t bring that on the plane.
These days I sent a lot of books to my mother since it’s difficult for her to get books in English where she lives in Greece. She reads them slowly, savoring them. My father, on the other hand, reads like I do: if he likes a book or thinks it’s important, he will sit and read it until he’s done. My sister, too, reads regularly. It’s a family trait. I come from a family of readers. A long line of readers, perhaps. My grandmother always had biographies laying about her home.
Last year a report came out that said that 42% of college students will never read another book after they graduate. Forty-two percent! I don’t know how that’s even humanly possible. I can certainly understand that there is a percentage of college graduates, depending on what they studied, who might not read literary fiction or nonfiction again. I can imagine some might read graphic novels or chick lit or Tom Clancy novels or self-help books, low-brow books.
The fact that close to half of college graduates don’t read books seems impossible to me. It seems like a deliberate, adamant choice not to read. It seems like they’re anti-book. Are they never, not even once, curious about a bestseller? Not even Harry Potter, Twilight, or Fifty Shades of Grey? Do they not feel the least bit embarrassed if they haven’t read classics like The Great Gatsby? Do they feel no shame in not being able to answer what the last book they read was? Or do their friends never mention books? Do these people never step inside bookstores? Do they never read a business book to advance their careers?
I just don’t get it.  

Kalo Mina! October 2013!

1 Oct

 

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“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Kalo mina! Happy October 1st! The first day of fall was September 22, but the weather today feels more like late spring. The sky is a bright, bright blue, the color of parakeet feathers. I walked down to Union Square at lunch today and was tempted to play hookey just so I could sit in the grass and look up at the sky and dream.

September brought routine back to the city, and it was a busy month. A few highlights:

  • Attending Greek American Fashion Week and seeing the latest collections by Tatiana Raftis, Angelo Lambrou, Nikki Poulos, and Stratton, with hair by Christo Curlisto
  • Seeing Jonathan Collins’ Beat Traveller art exhibit in Paterson with Larry Closs
  • Conducting a live interview with Tim Z. Hernandez about his book Manana Means Heaven at the Spanish Harlem bookstore La Casa Azul and getting to meet all the great people who work at the bookstore as well as Tim’s insightful agent
  • Reading one of my personal essays about road trips, homelessness, and God as Jason Harrod softly strummed guitar at his album release party
  • Retreating to Connecticut for the Scripps TriState alumni book club
  • Attending the Brooklyn Book Festival with friends whom I co-lead a monthly writing workshop with and getting to hear Justin Torres read from We the Animals again. He’s brilliant. I’m obsessed
  • Watching Into the Wild. I know I’m late to the game on this one, but at least I had read the book by Jon Krakauer before. The film devastated me. It was beautiful and painful and haunting and true, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days….
  • Brunching with author Isobella Jade
  • Hearing Davy Rothbart read from My Heart Is an Idiot. I once wrote that a story of his made me “wonder if Rothbart might be my generation’s Jack Kerouac.” Yep, he’s that good. I was too shy to talk to Davy, but I met his dad and, despite my efforts to become invisible at the mere mention of audience participation, Brett Loudermilk selected me out of the audience to pull a sword out of him. Yes, you read that right
  • Reading Kristiana Kahakauwila’s story collection This Is Paradise — this is Literature. I am savoring it
  • Discovering H&M Home — whoops! There went all my money!
  • Finally getting Internet set up at my new place
  • Talked to my sister for the first time since she moved out of New York City
  • Imbibing my first pumpkin spice latte of the fall
  • Attending A Global Conversation: Why the UN Must Focus on Women’s Leadership
  • Oh and launching the e-book edition of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” with Paul Maher Jr!!!

So yeah, that was my September. What about you? Did you read any good books? See any movies that moved you?

My Clothes Still Smell Like My Grandma

4 Jan

When I was growing up in Closter, New Jersey, there was beautiful blue fir right outside my balcony window. I can only recall one white Christmas. The snow blanketed the pine needles, turning the outdoors into a winter wonderland. It was even more fantastical than anything Hollywood could produce.

Over the years, my mother suggested we go on vacation for Christmas. I was dead set against this. I don’t recall ever believing in Santa Claus, so it’s not as if I was afraid Santa wouldn’t find us to drop off the gifts. Rather, I knew that if we went on vacation that would mean less gifts because the money would go toward hotel rooms.

Also, even as a young child I felt it important for my family to be all together in our home. My father was usually working so we didn’t spend a lot of time together as a whole family. Holidays represented a time for us to come together, and it seemed like for something as holy as Christmas we should   be in our house instead of each running off in different directions on the beach and distracted by landmarks. We’d done enough traveling for me to know that trying to please children with seven years of age difference and parents with dissimilar interests never worked.

Once the last of the children had flown the nest, we stopped spending Christmas as a family altogether.

Nine years later, we reunited for Christmas in Florida. Instead of a blue fir, there was a palm tree outside my window.

I remember the first time I ever saw a palm tree in real life. I was in fifth grade and had gone with my family to Florida to see my grandma and go to Disney World. We got off the plane, and pulling out of the airport I saw the many palmed leaves of a palm tree against the backdrop of a blue sky. It looked like a cheerleader’s pom-pom or a wig on a Muppet. I was enamored.

We spent Christmas this year in my grandma’s condo. I remember playing out in the backyard with my little sister, taking photographs of us with the exotic palm trees. The same palm trees still shake their confetti heads into the coastal breeze. But so much has changed…. My sister, for one, is no longer little. She is a woman with a life of her own. She has a career in which she speaks about resolutions and treaties to delegates from around the world. She will one day, maybe before I’m even ready for it, have her own family.

For every new beginning, there is also an ending.

Many years ago, my grandma died. She died on the day of my sister’s high-school graduation.

That was more than a decade ago, and her immaculate white condo still reeks of the cigarettes she smoked that caused her lung cancer. The cigarette smoke is in the white chairs and in the white sofa and seeped into the white carpet. And when I flew back to New York City, I realized my grandma’s smell had clung to my black puffy jacket. A part of her came with me.

I miss my grandma a lot. It was hard for me being back in her place without her even though I’d been there only two other times since she passed away. Various members of my family have spent significant time there, but it’s still her place to me. Her presence lingers so strong that even all these years later her smell is still a part of her  home.

In another day or so, the smell of cigarette smoke will leave my jacket, but for now I want to hold onto it. I want to hold onto her.

If you would like to stop smoking, here is a free resource.

How I Spent My Name Day

31 Dec

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For my name day, my family took me to Delray Beach, Florida. It’s a cute little oceanside town with lots of restaurants, antique shops, surf shops, and galleries. My favorite part of the trip was looking in the display cases at the antique store with my mom. When I was a little girl, she used to always take me with her to the antique stores we both loved so much. When we all moved, we had to give up a lot of our family heirlooms. Tea cups from my grandma’s side of the family. Handmade doilies from my yiayia’s side of the family. Exquisite purchases my parents had made when decorating their own home. I loved reminiscing with my mom in Delray Beach.

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Photo via Cupcake Couture.

We also went to a super adorable cupcake shop my sister loves called Cupcake Couture.  All the cupcakes are named after fashion designers. I got the Jean Paul Peanutier, pictured above. So yummy! The frosting was a light whipped peanut butter. Oh my gosh, I’m salivating just thinking about it.

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Photo via Wags to Riches.

We also stopped into a fancy pet shop called Wags to Riches. It was the type of place that sold rhinestone collars and designer-looking clothes in miniature form for dogs. They had some adorable puppies. I’m currently looking for an apartment right now that will allow pets because I’d like to get a dog of my own. I’m thinking of getting a Maltese. If you’ve ever had one, let me know in the comments section if they’re easy to train. Otherwise, I might get a poodle, which is what I had growing up.

After Delray Beach we went out to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. It wasn’t my choice, and it was bittersweet for me. The last time I’d been to that particular Cheesecake Factory was with my grandma, who has since passed away.

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??