Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Ethnocentric thoughts on nostalgia, melodrama and the Greek-Canadian experience

I own the DVD of the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the Athens Olympics. For months before the event, I was excited and nervous about how we would present ourselves to billions. I had fears of Zorbas all over the stadium, although I was familiar with the choreographer (Dimitris Papaioannou) and his avant-garde work.

Greece is a country that is rather easily distilled into stereotypes: the Acropolis, the islands, Zorba and souvlaki are some examples. However, being intimate with the culture I am aware of the profound depth of Greekness, a quality which juggles the past and present, the East and West and which has a rich folk and intellectual history.

Watching the ceremonies, I am always impressed by the intelligent and elegant way these were all presented. And I appreciated that contemporary Greece and its richness was not side-lined.

A beautiful memory: I remember my father and I eating
mezes in the basement together while watching the opening and both getting teary-eyed by what we were seeing. I'm in nostalgia mode and am watching the spectacle again and am still impressed. Not having been born in Greece but having a deeply innate connection to the place, I can't help but be moved- especially since so many thought we'd fuck it all up.

And watching this reminds me of my dad and what a truly unique, sometimes bizarre, but always interesting heritage I have inherited. I'm no Greek nationalist by any stretch, but I find our melding of disparate influences to be fascinating... sometimes infuriating... but ultimately inspiring. And really, my dad encompassed the best of "Greekness" in my mind while soundly rejecting its hypocrisies.

This Greekness is impossible to describe, but in a nut-shell, he was open and warm-hearted, flexibly stubborn, always fair, curious, dignified, hedonistic yet responsible, devoted, independent-minded but multi-dimensional and unconditional with his love. Contradictions come easily to us.
I miss him, but watching this helps.

By the way, towards the end, there is a guy running around the track with an olive branch flag to commemorate the previous Olympic Games. You can totally see a huge boner in his shorts at one point.

Thanks for the indulgence, whoever reads this.


At 12:06 AM, Anonymous Niko said...

I read it, and I thank you for this. You are probably the only person I know who would understand that.

I still have some guilt over missing the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. The VCR never recorded it and I had to work late.

Maybe when I move up there we could watch the DVD sometime, drink some ouzo and kvetch about Greek culture and cute Greek men :-)

At 12:23 AM, Blogger Genet said...

Sounds like a plan to me, Niko... But tsiftedeli ALWAYS has to play some part in Greek festivities avec moi.

At 1:02 AM, Anonymous Niko said...

Oh, but of course ;-)

At 1:33 AM, Blogger PDD said...

I remember how happy you were. I loved the fact that a woman organised the whole thing. The world was probably convinced she'd fuck up.

I know what you are talking about regarding souvlaki. It's like how people think chicken balls and rice are the only chineese dishes. That's annoying.

There's more to Jamaica than beef paties. Theres ox tail too...

At 4:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(You so ethnic!) Did that guy really have a huge boner? I must watch that at some point. I had a flashback of your father straining to get something in the pool and saying "Opa!" as he was bending over. Marvellous.


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