[inspired by Amy Krouse Rosenthal]
I have been a copywriter for as long as the life of a child (~10 years). But I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember.
I fell in love with a sculptor when I was in Crete. I fell in love with the streak in her hair that resembled the clay she used in her art: alabaster, white as a cloud. It curled around her bangs like a river and emptied into her mouth. I would tell her how she’d be more successful if she sculpted herself rather than bawdy Greek men and widows, but she never listened and asked me if I could pose for her. I declined. We drank wine under stars and she told me about her husband.
Mark Twain set aside the manuscript for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for over five years until returning to it–completing it with such reinvigorated mastery. I’m no Mark Twain, but this encyclopedia was the culmination of a life of 24 some-odd years. And now I’m 33. And it’s astounding to think how these musings have survived the test of time. And so I’m back…from outer space…(I am Gloria Gaynor though)…just walked in to find this here with that sad look upon its face…I should’ve changed that stupid word, I should’ve left it like it was, but now it’s time to make some changes and write more so just because.
We’ve all studied the stars, even for a moment in a chilly backyard. You slowly lift your head and address the creamy blackness above you, nodding to the shimmer: billions of stars, trillions of planets, countless souls nodding back.
To me, baboons were God’s first attempt at hemorrhoids.
It’s more fleeting than one would think. It may slowly fade over the years of earth’s weatherings, but it may also flee in an instant. Then return–an ebb and flow of aesthetics. Walking to work this morning, I noticed a particularly beautiful, tall olive-skinned woman, gracefully floating to my building. I quickened my pace to open the door for her. She sneezed. It was a flute-pitched sneeze. I turned to bless her. And out of her nose was hanging the longest string of snot. A bright yellow entrail of mucus. My “bless you” was harsher than normal.
My favorite color: the color of Lake Michigan in October: the color of Alaska: the color of my friend Aubrey’s hair in high school: the color of Greek freedom: the color of my grandfather’s blood: the color of regretting opportunities that could have been promising: the color of dead skin: the color of a macaw’s wing: the color of cold love: the color of atmosphere: the color of quasars: the color of God.
Why is the word brandish solely used for weapons? Maniacs brandish butcher knives, robbers brandish handguns, even terrorists brandish bombs. But if someone decided to inflict pain on another party using an innocuous weapon like, let’s say, a Dust Buster or a stamen or a butterfly net, then can brandish still be apropos? Can a maniac brandish a Dust Buster? Can a robber brandish a butterfly net? I suppose so.
I have a terrible memory of the Bulgarian national soccer team scuffling with my cousin, John Rekoumis (See also John). After an embarrassing win over the Greece, my cousin, John Rekoumis, and I headed down to the field to console some of the players when John Rekoumis, my cousin, spat on one of the Bulgarian mid-fielders. His name ended in -czki. The saliva managed to settle right between the player’s nose and upper lip. The livid Bulgarian ran to my cousin, removed his cleat, and threw it. Both of us dodged the shoe and ran behind the Greek phalanx of soccer players ready to defend our right to be sore losers.
The worst thing I’ve ever done was grab a cat by its tail and throw it up in the air. It landed on all fours, looked in my direction and sauntered the other way.
It seems that I am more motivated to work when I’m in working clothes not nightclothes.
When I go to heaven I’d really like not to see any. My conception of heaven has nothing to do with chubby little babies with wings. (See also Heaven)
I have a pet cockatiel (See also Electrocution) that’s older than some of my cousins. His name is Brisco. I was ten when my sister found him in the garbage along with three other dead baby cockatiels. Apparently someone had an abundance of cockatiels and decided to throw four in the trash. We kept him in a holey shoebox for 3 days until my mother threw the shoebox in the trash. But she realized empty cardboard boxes shouldn’t chirp. He’s flown away over 20 times since then and has always found his way back home. I’d like to think that he flies to feel free, and returns obligingly, thankfully, knowing we’d save him if he ever were lost.
I have trouble delineating the time when humans decided that beer and hard liquor weren’t the only options.
Crossing the street
To this day I have an insufferable fear of getting hit by a car or a truck or a bus. I obsessively look both ways before I cross, then step off the sidewalk, then look both ways again, then step forward, then look at the crossing sign, then both ways again, then I briskly cross the street and exhale in relief.
When you want something so much and you can’t have it, it’s only normal to want it even more so. I could be denied something that I would never even want and still have an iota of yearning for it if it is forbidden. If someone were to say, “John, I am denying you the right to ever blurt out an offensive word in front of your innocent grandmother again.” I’d make it my mission to, when anyone least suspects, go up to my grandmother, perhaps during dinner, put my arm around her shoulder, bring myself to her long, elastic ear and whisper, “Hey grandma…fffffffffuck you.”
I have a twin sister. The only semblance we have between us is our inane sense of humor. I was eating pumpkin pudding one night when I walked into her room and watched her typing on the computer. She looked up at me, emotionless, and back to the computer screen. I started eating my pudding as loud as possible. Squishing it in between my teeth and tongue and cheeks. The sounds were intolerable and disgusting. She asked me to stop. I told her I would, only if she would tell me what the sound reminded her of. She said it sounded like the unhealthy peristalsis of a squid’s intestines.
This is the word of Moses, no?
On my sixth birthday my mother took me to Toys R’ Us to buy me a Superman action figure with the red cotton cape. I was full of chocolate birthday cake and the inexplicable desire to explore. We entered the store and I broke free from my mother’s hand. I remember her voice trailing the wings of my back as she called for me. After forty-five minutes, my desire to explore became the desire to find where my mother was hiding. I looked for her in the action figures aisle, near the Lego Land, behind the bicycles, even in the baby section, but she was nowhere. Panic set in and I, grief-stricken, picturing a life without her, stumbled down the aisles of Toys R’ Us, snot hanging nearly to my chest, forcing myself to find a new parent. I had just turned six and all I wanted was to find my mom, a new mom, and Superman with the red cotton cape. A Toys R’ Us employee with the voice of an angel approached me. She asked me why I was crying and where my mother was. I was afraid to give her either answer. She seemed so nice and caring that I briefly considered her as the replacement. “My mommy left,” I cried. “You poor thing,” she said and looked at me and smiled and took my hand. “Come with me,” she said. “Bless you.” Yes, I said bless you; a six year-old saying bless you. I’d make a perfect child to her, I thought. She’d take me home with my pick of toys, because she works at a Toys R’ Us, we’d watch television together and eat Butterfingers and kiss each other and she’d tell me bedtime stories about Superman and I’d live forever happy. And then from behind the angel—my newly found salvation—came my mother crying herself, her hair frizzled beyond belief, thinking I had run away from the store. And behind her two Superman action figures. One with the red cotton cape and one with the blue cotton cape.
I read somewhere that the elements of life are a series of misdirected steps. Yet I still haven’t found myself coming out of the shower one day thinking about the inadvertent desire to make love beside a moonlit creek or why that incident would lead me to buy leather pants. The pants would tear in two as I sit down at a swingers party next to a girl named tamarind (like the goddamn tree) with red streaks in her hair that look like the American flag and feign the fact that RIP! just echoed throughout the room by asking her if she’s ever thought of changing her name to maple or poplar. We decide to get married and name our kids Maple and Poplar. Poplar would be the boy. We’d buy a house made of oak and pine near a creek in Grosse Point Michigan. And then as the pallid glow of the moon graces my wife one night while Maple and Poplar are over uncle Jack’s I’ll touch her shoulder and look in the direction of the creek.
This has got to be one of the foulest smelling and tasting fruits in the entire fucking world. I’d rather eat a raw frog’s heart than that fruit ever again.
I never fully accepted the fact that, like more than half of America’s children, I was a spoiled brat. I was given the option of working or not and never really needed any additional income. I would acquiesce to jobs my father would have me do with him, just so he could spend a few hours together with me. And he would pay me! I would do menial tasks like hold a flashlight over him as he fixed the kitchen sink or hold the ladder and count the clouds as he cleaned the gutters or hold the water hose as he gardened. I was always holding something. He would try and talk to me about school or about girls and I would feign busyness to avoid the conversation. And I would still ask for my “earnings” when it was all said and done. (See also Father or Horrible son). My first real job was working as a server in a banquet hall. The pay was decent, around $10/hour. I would talk with inebriated guests at wedding receptions, bat/bar mitzvahs, baptism receptions, and birthday parties (always either really young or on the verge of death). I would have a few drinks on the job and mingle around, get lucky sometimes and have some rich guy slip me a twenty for an extra bowl of split-pea soup. But the excitement was never there. I was looking for a job that offered better hours, a chance for adventure and to meet new people. I found that job in the Dermal Clinic at Truman hospital in Missouri. A job where transporting someone’s frozen chunk of malignant skin was the highlight of my day, or seeing a patient collapse from grief after being diagnosed with skin cancer. I quit after that.
My bird Brisco has been electrocuted four times in his life. We let him outside of his cage and occasionally he likes to gnaw on the rubber covering of electrical wires. The first time he did it, he bit right through the live wire. This sent 100 volts straight into his body. I was watching television when the entire room went dark for a few seconds. “Brisco!” I yelled. His beak turned black and the feathers around it were singed. He flapped around in convulsions and continued as though nothing had happened. The smell of burnt feathers is remarkably similar to burnt hair: sharp and bitter.
I believe elephants are people who were tired with their lives and just said to themselves one day, “I bet elephants don’t have it this bad.”
My father was involved in a pyramid scheme called Equinox. He came home one day with a trunk-full of small shitty appliances like a water bottle filter, a grime decalcifier, electric toothbrushes, toothpastes, electric shavers, aftershave, suntan lotions, binaca. Eventually he never was able to climb up that illegitimate corporate ladder and gave the products to his friends and relatives. The last time I was home, I was looking for sunscreen and happened to come upon the Equinox brand of SPF 30. It smelled like fermenting coconut.
I’m always fascinated with words that have a primary connotation that should be the secondary connotation of the word. Fabricate should mean to make fabric out of different parts, but that’s a very uncommon use for the word. So when it is uncommonly used I always assume the person means the first connotation of the word. (E.g. I fabricated this chinchilla sweater out of guinea pig). “You goddamn liar!”
I refuse to believe that women fart. And if they do it should smell like caramel or a myriad of sweet confections.
He is my hero. At least now he is. When I was younger he was always the guy who spanked the crap out of me when I called him stupid, or the man with the temper of Mt. St. Helens, never knowing when he’ll erupt but when he did it was a disaster, or the guy who broke the bridge of his nose in two by a rogue chair thrown by Jeremias Jackson in 1983 in a tea-green classroom full of ODD kids. Besides, my old heroes were characters on cartoon shows. They were never real. With my father, I now fully understand why he does anything; he does it for everyone else. But I have yet to know how he does all these things like work 16-hour days or deliver his own published newspaper to hundreds of locations around the Chicago metropolitan area. But he gets it done, and I know I could never be that altruistic. I can never only think about my family. I can’t because that very thing has spoiled me.
I’ve always found that one way of alleviating this terrible feeling is to a) apologize to the person you did wrong b) make up for it by buying him/her a lavishing gift like an exotic pet or 35 boxes of Jell-O, or c) have sex with them. Guilt is one of the worst feelings in the world. It’s up there next to regret and helplessness. I wish guilt upon no one.
I used to watch my grandmother ground garlic in a wooden mortar on early Saturday mornings. I’d hear the pestle against the wood in my bedroom and wake up to it, never at all angry but happy that I didn’t sleep through the Saturday morning cartoon lineup. I’d go downstairs and peak into the kitchen and see her kneeling in the corner, a solitary light illuminating half of her tiny body helping grind each molecule of garlic. I’d say “Good morning, Yiayia.” She’d turn to me and smile, manage to slowly get up, walk over to me, kiss me on the forehead—her hands were garlic-pungent—and return to the fragrant kitchen corner.
I won’t tolerate it. I like to think I have an uncanny ability to detect it within a 25-foot radius.
I had a blue Glo-worm in the mid 80s. I called him Jack and he was my best friend. I’d squeeze his soft terry-cloth thorax and wish it wouldn’t rain because I assumed worms left their homes when it rained and convened on the wet sidewalk to dance with other worms and talk about how life is so much better in the rain. And when the rain would stop they’d decide to remain outside and wait for the next downpour and dry up and die and become food for the birds.
Aside from “American School” I was a student at Greek School for ten years. My father was also a teacher at that school (See also Parade, The Greek). During lunch breaks I’d walk with my sister to the cafeteria, hand in hand, and buy something from the vending machine. We’d overhear older students talk about our father. How strict of a teacher he was, how violent. It was customary for Greek School teachers to spank their students. They’d say things like, “Today was nothing like last week. Mr. Rekoumis beat the shit out of me last week. All because I told him there was a fly buzzing around his head.” I felt embarrassed at my father. How could he do that to another kid? I realized why the year I had my father as a Greek School teacher. The students were rebellious little assholes. They’d throw things at him when he had his back turned to the class. They’d stick gum on his chair without him knowing, and he’d sit on the gum, and have strands of gum tangling from his ass like haywire hemorrhoids. There was one kid in particular that actually offered a seat to my father one day and when he began his descent to the chair the student pulled it away, having my father fall on the cold linoleum. The class had a good laugh, but I was more concerned about the kid. I knew if I ever pulled a joke like that my father would’ve hanged me. So the kid tried to make a break for it. Reaching for the door like it was his rope to freedom from an erupting volcano. But those arms. Those tan, Grecian arms of my father were just too damn long. He grabbed the boy and left the room. A tumult of slaps echoed throughout the school, adjacent to our church, reverberating out into the parking lot, resting upon a mound of snow collected near the edges of the church’s lawn. I asked my father that night, on the way back home if he really hurt the boy. He told me, “Hurting someone physically isn’t as damaging as hurting them emotionally.” I didn’t know it then, but my father would only retaliate. I know now his feelings were hurt every time he entered that classroom, I just didn’t know then. Nor did the other kids. They never knew. They were fucking kids.
There’s really only three ways to hail a cab. There’s the West Coast approach, which is a very passive hand up in the air and a quick sweep away as the cabbie passes you by. There’s the Midwest line of attack, which I fall under, this is slightly more aggressive, where the wannabe passenger has a constant wave of the entire arm, up and down. If he/she has an inkling of doubt that the cabbie may not stop there’s a swift step forward and a “Hey!” yelled through the window. The final and most assertive approach is the East Coast way. Where the passenger just walks in front of the cab and yells, “Stop the fuckin’ cab! Eh?”
Hair, The Ever So Unwanted Back
Why does it have to grow back there? Is it considered a sign of masculinity? I, for one, have thought about waxing. Though waxing seems to be a strictly female ritual when it comes to legs and armpits and, well, you know, but an exception should and will be made for having a part of a man’s body waxed if it is only their back, and maybe chest, possibly arms, legs I can see as well. I believe the next trend in human attraction will be complete and total hairlessness. Heaven My idea of heaven is my idea of heaven and no one else’s.
My sister and I were in Rhodes in utter idleness, watching which way the wind blew the sunflowers. Our father came up to us and asked if we wanted to do something fun. My sister wanted to go horseback riding. The day was excruciatingly hot. The pavement’s heat crept through my porous sandals, but my sister wanted to go ride a horse. So we drove to the nearest stable. My father knew the owner. He had four horses that used to race. When we arrived we heard them whinny through the car’s windows. My dad’s face furrowed, as if the sound was not your normal horse whinny. When we heard it again it did sound more like a whimper. My father’s friend came out of the stable sweaty and breathless. “You want to ride a horse, boy?” he asked me. “No,” I said. “She does,” as I pointed to my sister. “Okay,” he said. “Let’s get you the best looking horse in all of Rhodes. Wait here.” We heard him walk into the stable. We heard more whimpers. We heard slapping and louder whimpers. Eventually the man dragged out a black stallion. Pulling the horses reins so hard it looked like the thing’s neck was about to snap. It was the palest black stallion I’d ever seen. Its eyes were so hollow they must have been weeping. My sister wept when the horse collapsed, and when the owner kicked the horse’s side, billowing a plume dust and hot air. It was brutally hot. My dad told us to close our eyes. To keep them shut until we got back in the car. But it was the sound the horse made that was inescapable: the sound of anguish, of incalculable suffering. I tried not to cry in front of my father that day, but he found me that night outside on the veranda weeping. The night was as warm as his eyes.
Though he has never openly said it, I know I’ve driven my father to think of how much of a horrible son I am sometimes. For four consecutive years my father pleaded with me to come with him to Greece for only a month during the summer. I would throw a fit larger than any Nicole Richie tantrum, and wriggle my way out of going. I’d stay in Chicago for the summer and play with my friends until they’d leave for summer camp. Then I’d be stuck picking weeds with my grandmother on hot summer days, wishing I was at camp, or for at least the ice cream truck to arrive.
I used to believe I had an alter ego residing somewhere between the space of Saturn and its rings. His name was Zohn (See also Zohn). He would call to me at night when I’d be asleep, I’d see the wavelengths of his voice oscillate in front of my closed eyelids. Pulsing like light. I believed his blood consisted of ichor, as it coursed through my eyes.
Invited To A Party, Being
I still feel a sense of acceptance when I’m invited to parties. As if my name comes up in conversations like, “You know who would make a great party guest? John Rekoumis.” In the dark I silently address the moon.
I was given this name after my two grandfathers. They cherished their grandchildren. I was born after they died. I am their living tribute.
I was given this name after my two grandfathers. They cherished their grandchildren. I was born after they died. I am their living tribute.
Joining The Army
My father tried to make me a Greek citizen on my 18th birthday. When Greece’s armed guard got word of this dual citizenship they immediately sent for me. It’s mandatory for every male citizen to be drafted on his 18th birthday. My mother told them I was flat footed and slightly mentally retarded.
Joking about cancer
It’s not a laughing matter.
Joker, As In The
I used to think my father looked a lot like Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie Batman. There was something about the slyness of his smile. I was half expecting my father to go berserk one day, kill his family ( a la The Shining), read about it in the evening paper, drop it onto the desk, and suspiciously look around the room and say, “Wait’ll they get a load of me.”
(Insert sweeping overgeneralization here).
I eat these beautiful nuggets by the handful. Drizzle some olive oil over them and sprinkle some salt, pepper and oregano. My aunt used to harvest them on her plantation in a village near Sparta before diabetes took her hands. She’d pick them up deftly and place them in woven baskets smelling of sour feta and red wine. She’d lift each creel with her meandering back and stow them onto her disinterested mule, conducting a symphony with its tail. She’d brush its hair away from her face swirling like dandelion seeds. She’d lead it down a sinuous path, billowing ghosts of dust behind her, leaving shuffled hoof prints as mysterious as a wooden boat adrift on the warm green sea.
Joe and I were given one ticket to see the Dalai Lama give a lecture. One ticket. Only one of us could go. Both being adherents to the practice of karma, we offered the ticket to each other. We both adamantly refused it. I knew Joe well enough that, for him, seeing the Dalai Lama was more important so I tried more furtive means of giving: slipping it into his messenger bag when he wasn’t looking, folding it up into a tiny square and placing it inside his baseball cap, that sort of thing. The attempts were fruitless. As the day approached we got into a heated argument and ended up tearing the ticket in half. But for some reason we both felt relieved. Knowing that neither of us would endure the guilt of seeing the Dalai Lama without the other. About two hours before the lecture, Joe’s friend called and said she just broke up with her boyfriend, and would not be going. Two free tickets in the bag.
Klu Klux Klan
I’d just like to take a moment to call attention to the obvious misspelling of clan.
I have come back to the sofa, my hands behind my head and my feet crossed over one another to pursue my lifelong study of the ceiling and its hairline crack running along the civilization that lives above me. (See also Sofa)
In the third grade my class played leapfrog. When it was my turn, I leaped over Lauren, then Melissa, then Karen with the lazy eye. When I got to Thomas I stopped and went around him and continued on to Kimberley, then Stephanie, then when I got to Raymond I stopped and went around him. Mrs. Janet pulled me aside and asked me why I kept avoiding the boys. I told her that Maynard told me that doing the leapfrog with boys is called ‘gay’ and that I could die from it. Maynard is now in prison.
Why is it when we lick a stamp we swirl our tongue around afterward as if searching for the taste of the adhesive? The taste is somewhat nostalgic, perhaps, of wet comic book paper.
I got my first glimpse of it when I was seven. I was on a train with my father. The last time I ever was on a train like that. I saw a man discover it. He was jarred by it while eating soup. A woman bumped into his elbow and apologetically touched his shoulder and swept a strand of her hair over her ear and continued walking. The man looked as though his heart strained and ceased, his face then plopping into the bowl as other passengers looked over him with evident concern.
I’ve never been to Maine, but I can only imagine how beautiful the loons are. I can see them gliding over a pond on an orange Sunday, then down into the water that overlooks a black bean pasture, their breasts parting the oily water, mirroring their freckled coverts, a midnight snowflake. They’d submerge their charcoal nape, their tails pointing to the heavens, their webbed feet dancing with the wind.
Making Someone Feel Uncomfortable
It’s quite easy. I never knew how easy it was until I made someone feel that way. Part of it is exerting your confidence or authority over them, looking them straight-dead in the eye, longer than needed, long enough to hear a spider’s spun web tangling in the taut tension, long enough to where any sound is the most welcomed respite, then saying something or doing something completely unexpected like, say, kissing them on the lips quickly and seductively, or saying something like “I would die for you and a bag of pretzels.” It seems that would make an indelible impression on them. Now, whether that’s a good thing is really up to how good-looking of a person you are.
I used to think the particles of dust that escaped a moth’s fluttering wings were little baby moths that were fed up with their mother.
For the first five years of my life I thought my mother was the most obsessively clean woman on earth. Then our grandmother moved in with us, and I understood where she got it from. My mother and her mother had never been apart longer than 2 months. Ever. After my mother’s father died when she was 17, my grandmother didn’t have enough money for her to attend college. So they used what they had to move to America (a name that carried much more romanticism than it does now). My grandmother was looking to marry her off. To find some sucker that had the money to provide for them both. Enter Dad. A recent divorcee not really looking for anything too serious. Beware a mother’s talons. They grapple with their mates and clutch to their young for life.
This is one of my absolute favorite things to do near a fire during Winter. I often pick my winter reading list based on how well each book would complement the amount of nestling I’d do. The book should be poignant on a cold and bitter winter, like Franny and Zooey or Middlesex. A fire doesn’t always have to be a variable in this equation. Another warm body works even better, and can produce enough heat and additional nooks for my body’s parts to fit into place. This person should be of the opposite sex and NOT a member of my family.
I have yet to discover the fascination of this department store dinosaur. I have an ex who has been working there for 15 years. It has gotten her nowhere but fatter. Bitterness in past relationships is a very juvenile mentality, though. But she’s a bitch, so what are you gonna do?
Eventually I will join the people in these pages who have fallen in the night. Who have left their shapely souls in the mist of rainclouds. Who take up fractions of a page in a newspaper to sum up a life that has spanned decades upon decades. And all their survivors huddled at the end of that paragraph, under the roof of a grainy photograph of the departed, as if telling readers, “We are full of grief, yet we’ve evaded the thing that has brought grief to us.”
This encyclopedia better have more than just that.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
There are times and justifications where I believe that I have OCD. I count my steps, without a Fitbit. I have bizarre rituals like repeating myself. Like repeating myself. I floss semi-neurotically, semi-erotically, and get terrifying suspicions that my hands are extremely dirty based on how sticky they feel. I think about something once then can’t get it out of my head, stuck like a shard of glass in a carpet fiber, until I’m either drunk of fast asleep. I kept picturing a dead fawn I saw on the road one night in September in Evanston. I had been driving for hours from Madison, WI when I ran over a bump in the road. It was its neck. I decapitated the dead baby. And for some reason I couldn’t escape from that image for the rest of the evening. I would be talking to my sister and picture the fawn’s head resting on her shoulder. Or, when reading a magazine on the couch, relaxed as a cat, its head would saunter over the words, trailing magenta blood in splatters, like a broken grading pen. Eventually, I just open a bottle of Cabernet and call it a night. That poor fawn. Once again resurfaced and ineluctable, swirling around my head like a stirring straw.
Ordering At A Restaurant With Three Or More People
I loathe the point of indecision when a waiter asks for an order and people look at each other and wait for someone to go first only to adhere to some unknown dining etiquette. This is why I am establishing a preliminary process of how ordering should transpire with parties of three or more: 1. The person who knows what they’re having first should fucking order first. This can be disclosed in one of two ways. The person can simply state they know what to order and that they’ll go first. Or if the dining part knows each other well enough a simple raised arm could make that signification. 2. If there happens to be a tie, the parties involved will simply follow a counterclockwise order where the person that hasn’t yet decided what to order will go fucking first, thus coercing them to decide what they’d like to eat, then the person to his/her left will continue the process. Now, if you’re stuck at a table with someone who is holding up the order you should order for them and keep the process moving. Can’t go wrong with duck. Then again, maybe the females should order first, in a sign of chivalry.
Parade, The Greek
There’s a picture of my sister and I dressed in tradition Greek outfits called foustaneles. We are holding a Greek flag not even knowing why this day requires a parade. I remember walking along Wacker Drive in Chicago for an hour or so, but thinking it seemed much longer than that. I’d wave at disinterested indigents and drunkards with the occasional proud Greek parent hedging over the metallic fence, waving frantically at their child, yelling for them to straighten their back or tuck in their tummy. My sister and I would always have to walk next to each other because the Greek School teachers thought it adorable that the venerated Mr. Rekoumis had twins that also attended the same Greek School that he taught. For the first 10 minutes or so we’d hate it. We’d walk alongside out arms like mutes. But something would usually happen to evaporate our hostility toward each other, like George Dimitrakakis tripping over a McDonald’s cup and having half of the school kids domino the fall. And at the end, we’d meet out mom and dad and go to a tiny Chinese restaurant for an early supper. We’d laugh about the day. Our mom would tell us how wonderful we looked together, and my father would just have a grin on his face, sipping his shark fin soup quieter than a sparrow, looking at out reflections in the mirror.
A HAT LIKE THIS – I doubt they ever noticed the mustached man’s hat. It was a puny thing. / I wanted to decorate it with a feather. It sat / there overshadowed by the man’s carpeted upper lip, / a Bunyanesque weave that seemed to move / autonomously up to his hirsute head with the help / of the train’s rushing breeze. The other / passengers sat looking at less interesting visages, / like the moon along the tracks or the group of / naval cadets playing a noisy game of cards. I / looked at his hat, resting self-consciously above the thicket of curls, wanting perhaps to rest upon / a less forested head, a head that desired a hat like this. / And then the lights ceased in the cart as we sped / through a tunnel and the mustached man / screamed as though blood was pooling around him. / The naval cadets laughed, greasy / solicitous smiles in the darkness. / And when the lights came to, the man’s hat was gone. / His neck grew high over the seats to seek / the ones responsible. His lips quivered with anger / trembling through his mustache as he stood / up and faded through the cigarette smoke / spitting prompt injunctions at them. They / guzzled their beers and continued their game, / and the man, finally sizing up the fight, sat back / down in his seat and blankly ran his hand over / the space that was once occupied by his sad little hat. / He looked back at the cadets, adjusted his / coat with forlorn and fell asleep, dreamless, as I / lit a cigarette and stepped outside, beyond the / red light of the exit, twirling the hat around my finger. / I watched the moon follow me.
In fourth grade, my friend RJ taped a pencil onto my chair, standing point first. I unknowingly sat down upon it. It pierced through the cheek of my ass, breaking the lead tip off under my skin. I was too embarrassed to tell the teacher. And I was even more embarrassed to cry in front of my friend. I covered my eyes and help in the pain until lunchtime. When I approached the nurse’s office I restrainedly wept. Droplets of my tears connected my eyelashes together like Elmer’s glue to precocious fingertips. It made me look like one of those silent film actors, highlighting their eyes’ expression, hiding their devastating sorrow. The next day I missed school so that I could get a tetanus shot and have the piece of lead lodged in my ass squeezed out like a pimple.
Quarreling with Thomas
I had a childhood best friend names Tom Popovic. He was a Yugoslavian, then a Croat. Then bitter. I learned some words to please him. He learned some Greek to do the same. We were never apart. Until 7th grade when he told me he was moving away. In such anger, thinking that I had done something to cause him to leave, I went to my kitchen, pulled out a carton of eggs, walked over to his house and threw half of them at his windows and the other half at the aluminum siding. He opened the blinds and looked at me in shock. Tears ran down his eyes with such biting distress, doubting or regretting our entire friendship. I never saw him again.
When I turn 50 I will howl at the moon. I will howl at its obvious face, as pallid as a glass of milk. I will drive carelessly behind teenagers and refute their youthful musings of drugs and sex. I will have sex. With my wife, or my mistress, or my girlfriend. I will carry seeds. Carry them to my garden and turn my face upward and bask in the sun and wonder if mny heart was ever this warm. I will wait in line at bakeries just so that I may indulge in the smell. I will paint portraits of my memories, landscapes of horizons meeting with the setting sun, light refracting from wine glasses I’ve misplaced in the years following my brain surgery, my pet cockatiel that flew away, preening himself on a branch in a tropical backdrop, a waterfall misting the trees like a quilt. I will run. Run like the wind and stop only for my shadow to catch up. I will laugh at it. I will live. And when I turn 51, I’ll dream of all the things I’ve done.
Recording My Voice for NPR
I used to be a reporter for the NPR affiliate in Missouri. Oh, how boring my stories were. What’s ridiculous is I would spend more time perfecting my voice than I did writing the scripts. I would begin with a slice of lemon and a cup of tea, peel its rind like deadened skin and suck through the citrus. I would hum to myself to dislodge any phlegm that may have accumulated over the night (simply clearing your throat was stigmatized in broadcast circles, damages the muscles), and drink Listerine. Just one fluid ounce. We had interns do all the fetching. Interns some older than I was. It felt good to order people around that were older. The bizarre thing was all the interns were there voluntarily. As if they enjoyed getting me tea, as if my local celebrity was talked about when they’d come home to their families and cook up all sorts of compliments like “My word, that John Rekoumis has a set of chords on him. Ones that make Robert Siegel sound like a desperate clown in search of crack.”
Remembering a Morning Greece, Upon
I used to go swimming with my father in a village southwest of Athens. He’d wake up at six in the morning before there were any shards of sun scarring the waking sea and put bread, tomatoes and cheese in a pearly cloth. He’d open the door to my room and tap on my shoulder and whisper my name and wait for me outside. Drowsily, I’d put my grandmother’s sandals on my feet and clip-clop to the beach, holding my father’s hand and our food that we’d eat as the sun rose from the island across the bay.
I always used to love the sound of computers rebooting in the 1980s. That big switch on the side, so tactile and bulky, belting out a series of clunky clicks and clacks, as if staying true to the sound effects of computers mimicked in films from the 50s. Films with futuristic, post-apocalyptic settings.
The perfect name for the perfect concoction. Chilled red win, pungent fruits, a dim moon, and the possibility of morning with someone you have yet to meet.
I felt smoke once. Curling around my fingers like gossamer.
This was the vehicle of my childhood. I can document a list of things/events that have occurred on my soda that have led to my own development as a human. A sofa: a material piece of ordinary furniture that has witnessed all my stages in life. The time I nearly suffocated my friend RJ with one of its cushions for breaking my Play-Doh container during my 5th birthday. The time I called my dad a “dumb ass” and he chased me and buried my face between the cushions and spanked me until my cheeks were as red as his rage. The time I jumped from my second floor bannister onto it, having a spring rip through the fabric and stab me in the back, giving me a scar near my spine that looked like a frown. My God, the basketball games watched on that sofa. Football. Heck, even baseball. Reading books upon books. Tales I’ll never forget, resting my head on the pillow and thumbing through the type. Weeping for Holden Caufield to rediscover his childhood. Circling the page number that made me weep. He taught me disappointment. Thus so did the sofa, this innate inert thing, half alive at time, half dead, depending on who’s sitting on it. It took my innocence. Rather, Sara Stevens did, but she was in on it, as I in her. Looking past the cushions, heaving in the direction of a sown portrait of wild horses galloping toward me. I prayed for my grandmother to stay alive on this sofa. For her to be able to once again sit here and tell me how different ovens were 50 years ago. To feel its fabric once more, so that I can remember how I felt the first time.
I had an uncle named Sophocles. He was an obstetrician. He wore blue sneakers in the pool when he did laps. I kept telling him that flippers may be more efficient but he looked at me and laughed. Thinking, perhaps, that this boy knows nothing lof life. Probably thinking about the time he delivered me at the hospital; me at my worst. And he probably can’t get past the ingrained image of vulnerability.
Here is a list of things that I’ve stolen throughout my life (in chronological order):
• My cousine’s Christmas gift that was under the “public” Christmas tree (1986) • A tootsie roll from the penny store in the mall (1988). I realize the ease of theft and become thrilled at the potential. • A fudgesicle from my aunt’s freezer (1989). • 3 fudgesicles from my aunt’s freezer (1989). • An ice cube tray (1989) • He-Man’s BattleCat at Toys ‘R Us (1991) • My sister’s Rainbow Brite (1992) – Stolen from my three days later. •$5 from my mom’s purse (1992) – She catches me a tells me how wrong it is to steal. I take a four year hiatus. • A computer game called King’s Quest from Best Buy (1996) • $10 from my father’s pants (1997) – slumped over his chair in his room. I once again rekindle the fascination of stealing, especiialy from my father. • $15 from dad’s pants (1997) • $20 from dad’s pants (1997) • $25 from dad’s pants (1998) • $50 from dad’s pants (1999) – Junior Prom. So I had to. He catched me before I have the chance to escape and grounds me on prom night. My date think I was killed. Fleeting gossip the following Monday morning. • $55 from dad’s pants (2001) – thus ending my embezzlement menage for good. • A bag of salt and vinegar chips from Jimmy John’s when I was stoned (2003) • A chocolate chip cookie from Jimmy John’s when I was stoned (2004) • A bag of jalapeno chips from Jimmy John’s when I was sober (2008)
Tea, to me, is like nectar to Zeus. I drink it and can feel lightening escape from my fingers.
I used to golf with my friends. We would play 18 and whoever had the lowest score would win $20. I was never lucky enough to win that money. But I had my father’s pants. Toenails What’s the appeal of a clipped toenail’s smell; a pungent calcite by-product of our bodies that none of us can help but sniff?
I like to think my grandfather died sitting in his favorite chair, drinking wine in the afternoon, his eyes halfway shut, blindly tracing creases on a wooden table with his grey fingernails. He would notice a one-winged butterfly crawl to the stained may of his window and fall into the rusted sink. And it’d make him think of all living things. He’d pick it up by the wing and place it on the plastered window’s edge. It’d crawl up the window, framed in a vista of mountains stubbled with pines and dark clouds of birds soaring to the sea. And when he would drift to sleep, the butterfly remains, its wing flickering in the wind until morning.
As I try to write at home, the sound of rain becomes indistinct, much like the surf of traffic in the city or birds on an electrical wire. And nothing is coming to me. I wait for it. For the tipping point that may make my writing great, but it hasn’t come. Maybe I missed it. Maybe it was so subtle, like the sensation I felt when I crossed over from Oklahoma to Texas. I never gave it a second thought. Could that have been the little shift? Or will it be when I walk through the rain to my car to get the letter my mother sent me asking about where my decisions have led me.
Using Death As A Metaphor For Life
I find this acceptable. What I don’t find acceptable is using it unknowingly, stumbling upon it like a bear does honey, slurping up the spoils and taking credit for its discovery when no credit is due. It’s like using really pretentious names in fiction. Names that should mean something more than what they mean. Names like Sadie or Forester. names that illuminate a character’s intentions without going into their nuances, when, in fact, that’s what writing should be. A melding together of nuances, conglomerated into something beautiful, unaccidentally.
I’ve come to the realization that, aside from my indignant monologue above (See Using Death As A Metaphor For Life), I haven’t come to terms with the fact that I know absolutely nothing. This is something I am looking forward to when I get older. The more I know, the more I’ll come to realize I don’t know much.
I believe urges are produced from a feeling ignited by a past life. They are usually unexplained and have no meritable basis, like grabbing a squirrel by its tail or calling for someone you’ve never met.
Something I still do when I draw is depict speed. The morning my parents drove me to college I had a notebook on my lap and a pen resting on my ear, looking so much like the journalist I thought I was. Somewhere between Springfield, Illinois and Springfield, Missouri we came across a herd of runner. They were running south with us along I-55 in complete synchronization as though they were one shoal of fish. I drew them over and over again. Each one. Lines across each face, showing the wind becoming visible as it broke against their faces.
Vying For Attention
Having a twin sister would always call for rivalry. We would search through our day to find the highlight and relay it to our parents, trying desperately to outdo each other. You don’t have to know my sister to know the outcome. You only have to know me.
The strikingly stinging flavor of wasabi when it electrifies your tongue is sheer fantasy. It clears every passageway in your body, and seemingly adds years to your life.
Wellington, Concerning Mr.
My 2nd grade teacher and I never really got along. I called him a crater face before I even know what that meant. Turns out he was a crater face. He told me to be still and sit down. I called him crater face again. And then when he yelled, “John! Plant yourself in that seat or you’re in big trouble,” I said okay and began to pantomime myself digging a hole in the chair, “planting” myself in it as a seed, mimicking the pouring of a watering can, sprouting out my arms, growing up to the ceiling, stretching to the fluorescent fixtures, and yelling “Birth!” over the roar of thunderous claps and laughter from my classmates, beneath, of course, the chagrin of Mr. Wellington.
Wondering About Wandering
I’ve had the longest fascination with Japan. I’ve dreamt of arriving with no money and self-sustaining from the pristine earth. Wandering the countryside with nothing but a tunic and a sword. Breathing in the air of Shinobi. I would befriend people that would teach me their own ascetic and aspire to follow it. Learning the things I’d never learn in the states.
Xeni (non-Greek woman)
My mother believes that marrying a non-Greek woman will lead to my suffering, because of her disownment of me marrying one. We’ve had long, arduous arguments about my choice to marry whoever the hell I want, but my words are get wasted. And I still believe I am too young to start thinking about that now. I know nothing of love. Yet I don’t think she’ll ever understand that there’s more to it than sharing the shame heritage. And what scares me isn’t the possibility of gaining the love of someone who isn’t Greek, but losing the love os someone who thinks Greek is all there is. And yet here I am engaged to a beautiful woman with an equally beautiful Greek last name (10 syllables long)…
In any film that takes place in the future I’ve always seen the women remain unchanged and beautiful and the men as mutated abominations. Is this because we expect men to be the downfall? Igniting a chain of events so abhorrent they are the only ones affected by it? Or is it that women were the directors of these films.
My grandmother was the woman who practically raised me. Her full name was unknown to me until I was 12. She was always known as Yiayia, or grandmother. I locker her out of our house during a brutal Chicago winter. I didn’t know any better. I was four. And when she returned from shoveling the snow from our driveway she found the door locked. I still can’t remember what drove me to lock it. (See also Urges). But, oddly enough, I didn’t regret it either. I do remember someone banging and banging on the door, but that only frightened me. I had forgotten who was on the other side. My imagination was not helping me jump to any logical conclusions either. When she realized I wasn’t going near that door, she went to our neighbor’s and asked to use the phone with a simple gesture of the hand. My Yiayia doesn’t speak a lick of English. She’s lived in the states for 40 years and can only say that she doesn’t speak it: “No speaky English,” she’d say to telemarketers. A sound strategy. She got on the phone and called my mother to come home with the spare key. I was punished with hugs and kisses from her, relieved that I was alright.
Arriving to Texas as a graduate student, it sounded like nails on a chalkboard at first. Who says Y’all besides droll cowboys and starving white-trash families? I’ll tell y’all: Everyone! Everyone says it. And so it grew on me. I tried it once and it was the facility of brevity that appealed to me. How it can shorten a sentence in such succinctness that you are already talking about something else. Whereas Unsoutherners are still grappling with sentence one, figuring out where the pronoun goes where. So I say cheers. Cheers to Y’all.
I never for a minute grieved the death of my uncle. I never really met the man. He was disowned by his mother, my Yiayia, sometime in the 70s for something I have yet to discover. I recall being young and overhearing his name in between raging curses to the sky. I’d say, “Yiayia, who is Zacharias?” And she’d say “A man you’ll never need to know.” As I grew older, I wanted to discover this name that fleetingly emerged during dinner conversations or hushed discussions on the veranda. Then he died. To me, never really knowing how he had lived. It was a heart attack apparently. He had come home from work one day and sat down on his sofe (See also Sofa) and turned on the television and followed the warming glow before him. When my mother told me her brother had died, I had forgotten she had one. But then, I remembered. I rememberd the only time I had seen him. It was during a wedding in Cincinnati, Ohio. I walked over to the bar to order a Coke. I met eyes with an elderly man that was miles away in his head, but followed my every move with his glassy eyes. Eyes the shape of cashews. My sister came up to me and told me who he was. I could imagine how his heart was broken by not being able to see his mother again. He sat drinking whiskey in the corner, looking through his glass into the table’s watery reflection. By that time, though, a waiter came up to me with a glass of fizzy Coke, and so I sat thinking of nothing but him, watching children with their mothers pass by, other relatives, and the wavering of his hand as he brought his drink to his lips.
I AM JOHN’S ALTER EGO. I AM THE DEATH TO HIS LIFE. BELIEVE NOTHING IN THESE MUSINGS.