Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tommy and the Greeks

No, this isn't about my joining a fraternity while at NAU.  Are you kidding?  Do I look like a frat boy?

I worked at a Greek restaurant in Phoenix throughout the '90's.  The place was incredible.  From the very first night, they always treated me like family.  Still do.  I could drop by right now (assuming I hopped on a plane), and they'd stuff me full of dolmathes, spanakopita, souvlaki, mousaka, or whatever else they could get dig out of the kitchen and force down my throat.  That's a sign from the Greeks that they like you, by the way.  Mostly, they just yell and curse at you when they don't.  OK, they yell and curse a lot anyway.

Here's how it happened: my mom, my grandmother, my little brother, and I hung out together every Saturday morning when we were young.  This continued pretty much until my brother moved out when he was about 20.  I stuck around until I was almost 30, but that's another story.  Anyway, we cleaned the house, grabbed lunch (usually at the Jack in the Box on 35th Avenue and Northern), and went shopping.  One of our weekly visits was to an Italian deli just a few blocks away.  The shop was next to the Greek restaurant, and we'd find the owner hanging out in the deli in the afternoons.  He's four or five years older than I am and lost his dad to cancer about a year before we met.  In kind of a Gilligan (me) meets the Skipper (him) sort of way, I filled the void left by his dad's passing.  We were inseparable for about five years.  Then, he called me from Greece one morning and told me he was getting married (an arrangement), and it was pretty much over.  But, we had a great run.  We traveled the country and grew up together (although I think an argument can be made that I didn't grow up until I held my wife's hand for the first time - we were walking across a Costco parking lot, by the way).

Unfortunately, I drifted away from writing at this point in my life because after I graduated from college, I started teaching and directing theatre.  Both of these arts are incredibly demanding, but invigorating.  They fulfill the sometimes unquenchable desire I have to create.  I did write a teleplay for a pilot episode about the Greek restaurant roughly 10 years before My Big Fat Greek Wedding came out.  Again, if I only knew!  I also dabbled in songwriting.  My younger brother played guitar with a few heavy metal bands across that span and recorded one song we co-wrote, "Raise the Dead."  It's about how difficult it can be to salvage a relationship, not about zombies.  Still, the music is an excellent cross between Metallica and Creed, and I've always been quite proud of my little brother's talents.  He plays guitar, writes songs, produces records, and manages his band.  None of those jobs are easy.  He also writes online heavy metal reviews.  His writing is better than mine.  He's an avid reader.  I'm just a lazy ass.

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