Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One-Word Summaries

A Catholic friend of ours here attended a several-sessions-long seminar on Judaism. In the last session, the Rabbi asked people how they would summarize, in one word, what it meant to be a Jew. The rabbi's answer: "Covenant." Jews, he explained, are the People of the Covenant. They have this contract with God that nobody else has, in other words, I suppose he meant.

He summarized Islam in the word, "Obedience", which I suppose is fair, as the very word "Islam" means, "submission". I might have said, "Koran".

And then, asked to summarize Christianity, the rabbi said, "Sin".


Thanksgiving: Gratitude for So Much

Oh, stuff and bother! I’m not minded to bore you with all the details of our wonderful Thanksgiving. I’ll just say it somehow all came together at last but I was grateful, once we had all been seated at table, to accept Daniel’s offer to take charge from then on. (He’s my brother-in-law, Barbara’s husband.) He organized the transfer of various dishes to everybody’s plates.

Next day, Friday, I drove down to North Carolina with my daughter and her family to visit my son and his family. They’d also had a big crowd, mostly Katherine’s wonderful family, and had celebrated Thanksgiving with – are you ready? – a whipped cream fight! Yup. They chased each other around the house wielding squirt cans of whipped cream, and when they had thoroughly covered some family members with it, those people chased the others around and gave them big hugs.

It’s amazing how quickly whipped cream turns sour and smelly. And gluey…

Anyway, the weekend was full of fun: contests on the trampoline, cooking s’mores over the grill, going to Tanglewood to see the park’s elaborate Christmas lights display, and a shopping trip in which I bought all my 5 grandchildren belated birthday gifts and all their Christmas gifts as well, except Connor’s because he couldn’t find anything in the whole toy store he liked all that well. That was probably because he wasn’t feeling well, but he was better by time I left.

The grandchildren snuggled and sang and told stories and drew me pictures and allowed themselves to be chased and tickled, and the hole in my heart from grandchildren deprivation closed right up. Although it’s already beginning to open up again, God willing we’ll be back together before it widens enough to hurt very much.

Now it’s back home and back to settling in after our long absence. We finally put in a police report on our stolen DVR and we have composed a letter to the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles requesting justice be done concerning the situation that developed while we were away.

Baby Jackson, 1, needs a Christmas stocking.  My mother used to knit them but doesn't anymore.  Barbara took over some years ago but now that she has reposed, that leaves me.  Okay, yarn all bought.

Everybody in our extended family has some variation of this stocking.  Pattern here.

British Humour

I forgot to tell you earlier about the bus driver we had in London. He was driving the shuttle bus, taking us from our hotel to the airport. As we arrived on the grounds of Heathrow, we heard:

"Ladies and gentlemen, out the windows to the left, you will notice what appears to be an enormous mound of earth. It is not simply a mound of earth; we are building our own volcano. When it is finished we are going to blast it and send all the ash to Iceland. We shall find out how they like it."

Then, when we came to the first stop: "Ladies and gentlemen, this is Terminal 2. For those of you who don't speak English, this is Terminal 2 - por favor."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

Once I told my priest I never had deciphered God’s Plan for My Life - to which, I received his usual who-do-you-think-you-are? kind of answer. Not everybody can be a hero, he pointed out; not everybody can lead an illustrious life brimming with world-shaking accomplishments. Just take care of your home and your husband, he advised. Maybe that’s “all” you are called to do, he said. But if and when God deems you have done this well enough, He may add something else, in small increments.

But Sarah in Indiana has another answer. She left it in my comment box when I urged people to read Chloe’s post, “Jesus Does NOT Have a Wonderful Plan for Your Life”.   Sarah passed along what she had heard in that week's sermon, that Jesus IS God’s wonderful plan for your life.

So, so true! In Romans 8:29, St. Paul writes, “whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to be] conformed to the image of His Son…”

In Ephesians, the Apostle prays, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3: 16-19)

“To be filled with all the fullness of God;” or in other words, be conformed to the image of the Son; or in Orthodox parlance, to be deified: this is the wonderful plan for each of us. This is our calling, and it is the most glorious imaginable one.

And that’s a blessed comfort for people like me who never did figure out what we wanted to be when we grew up. This is what every single one of us really, most truly, most deeply wants, the vocation for which we were all created. That's what our lives are all about. 

Yes, THAT is what I want to be someday when I grow up.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I'm Alive and Well...

... and very busy with, well, er, um, real life!

Will post more soon as I can, starting with our wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's a Scam

Help Needed!!!

Help! I'm sorry to be emailing you like this, but I am in need of some urgent assistance. As you have know, I've been traveling through Europe. But last night in Scotland, my worst fears came true. As we were headed back to the hotel, we were robbed but a crazy man with a GUN. He took our bags, wallets, and phones.

We have no credit cards or cash. Thankfully, we had left our passports in the safe at the hotel. We need to get back home, but we have no way to get to our flight in Germany that leaves for home today.Right now our only option is to fly home from here.

We need some money so we can purchase tickets to get to JFK, and then fly home from there. As soon as we get back home, I can repay you, I just need to get some cash to get there. If you can help, send me an email back, we have internet access from the lobby in the hotel. I'm sorry to bother you, I just didn't know how else to contact you quickly. Thanks! Rachel

Having seen and spoken to my friend Rachel on Sunday, I knew she wasn't traveling in Europe, nor could afford to, nor could drop her obligations at home. So I called her anyway, and she's right here. Someone has hijacked her e-mail account and she can't get into it. Apparently everyone in her address book has received this e-mail.

She says the same thing happened to Vangie (Evangelia) last week. What Rachel and Vangie have in common is, they go to the same church, the Greek church, where we also go.

So if, in the near future, you should see anything similar to this that purports to be from me (or Demetrios) it isn't. We are not in Europe; we are here in Richmond to stay until further notice. The best thing you can do, should you receive an e-mail like this, is to ignore it. Do not reply, lest you annoy the scammer and s/he attack your account next.

Of course, none of the foregoing means you cannot send us money if you like. Post office box number available upon request.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Can the non-Orthodox be Saved?

Last year, our dear friend Vasilea, in Greece, raised this question over dinner; for a summary of that discussion, see here.  This year, she did it again, mostly to pre-empt another endless discussion of politics.

The Orthodox Church has never taken a position on this matter.  Therefore, the only correct answer an Orthodox Christian can give is, "We don't know."  We_do_not_know.  Truly.  There is no "official" teaching of the Holy Orthodox Church.   

There is reason to doubt they can be saved; for example, they are not members of the Body of Christ, they do not, so far as we can tell, have truly Life-giving sacraments, etc., etc. 

And there is reason to believe they might nevertheless be saved, if for no other reason than that we have known God, Whose mercy is always endlessly astonishing, His ways, mysterious, His judgments, unsearchable, His Holy Spirit unconfined and unconstrained.

But we do not go by reason; we go according to revelation; and so far, the Holy Spirit has not revealed this to the Church.  So if any Orthodox Christian tells you yes, the non-Orthodox can be saved, or no, they cannot, that person is expressing his own opinion and nothing more.  Nothing more exists on the subject.  We are allowed to hope, but not to proclaim our opinion as Truth.

My own hope, my own belief, my own opinion is a resounding yes.  Yes, it is indeed possible for a non-Orthodox person to be saved.  Extra difficult, but not impossible.  Why do I think this?  Simple:  I have known Carl Harris.  And others like him.  And I think it would be blaspheming the Holy Spirit to suppose Carl did not belong to Christ.

I have known Salmon, too, who is Muslim, and my heart, with wonder and awe and joy, recognizes in him another heart belonging to Christ, even though not conceptually, for fear it would make him a polytheist.  (Yes, I do know my heart can be mistaken.  I just don't think it is, in this case.)

But don't they have their doctrines all wrong?  Sure.  But what are doctrines for?  For guiding our feet into the way of peace, which means into the way of Love.  And Love, be it carefully noted, is what we were created for; in other words, Love is built into our human nature.  Granted our nature has become corrupted.  Granted, correct doctrine and practice are incalculable advantages in overcoming that corruption; but it is not impossible, and indeed appears to me indisputable, that certain people who may not even regard themselves as Christians have nevertheless (not without Grace) found their way back to their true, natural selves, which is to say, back to Love, which is to say, to Christ.  To some extent, that is - just like you and just like me.  And to the extent they have done this, it just doesn't matter about all their mixed-up doctrine.  The purpose for which true doctrine has been revealed has been accomplished in them without it.  (Compare the passage in Romans in which St. Paul mentions that Gentiles who are without the Law [of Moses] can do "by nature" the things that are in the Law.)  At the Last Judgment, we are not going to be given a theology quiz.  We are going to be carefully examined to see how closely we resemble Christ.  It's a tautology to say those who resemble Him are the saved; that's what salvation IS, being made like Him. 

But they haven't been baptized, someone will say.  They aren't members of His Body, aren't incorporated into Him or into His Life, Who alone has immortality.  Well, Christ can baptize whomever He pleases, whenever He pleases, however He pleases.  Who can say He will not admit certain people into His Church, into His Body, on the Last Day, just as He will cut off some of the existing, dead members?

Recently, I caught Santa Claus traveling incognito.  I really do believe Christ sometimes travels incognito.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lead, Kindly Light

In posting this hymn on Saturday, I meant to honor my dear friend, mentor, and teacher, who loved it so well. Carl loved this hymn because his life's burning desire was to follow Christ no matter what. To him, "th'encircling gloom" symbolized life's trials and sorrows, of which he had his share, or more; and his faith was to follow Christ in spite of them; and his hope, that Christ would bring him safely through them.

But I hasten to add that by posting this hymn, I did not mean to endorse its content, although it's a lovely hymn, emotionally appealing, pretty music, devout-sounding words, quoted below. 

The words were written by John Henry Newman. That's John Cardinal Newman, who so famously converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism. That rather puts a new slant to the words, doesn't it?  He's talking about what followers of the pope so often do:  blind obedience.  Just obey, and if you can't see the sense of it, or where you are going, or why,  your submission is all the more virtuous.  Wanting to choose or see your path is viewed as pride in this hymn.  Cardinal Newman is here speaking of his pre-Catholic days.  But now God (through the pope) will tell him where to put his foot next; mustn't inquire further, simply do as you're told.

What's the difference between surrendering all your responsibility, giving it all over to someone else in blind submission versus simply being led by Christ?  Well, it's the difference between night and day.  It's the difference between walking in the darkness and walking in the light, and that's why this hymn is full of "dark", and "night" and "encircling gloom". 

But blind obedience is no Christian virtue; it's just plain irresponsibility; it's ducking adulthood, and Christ never asked for it.  In fact, the opposite:  "I am the light of the world: whoever follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12; see also 12:46)

In Christ, we can indeed see where we are going.  We can see the whole path because He is the path.  "I am the way," says He, "and the life and the truth."  In Him, we can even see "the distant scene", which is why St. John was able to write the Apocalypse, for the distant scene, too, is Christ, the Beginning and the End of everything.  We do not walk blindly, but with clearer sight than ever before.   We understand where we're going and what is required to arrive there and why. We do not simply go by another's say-so; the Truth has been revealed to us first-hand; we can say, with Job, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees thee."  (Job 42:5)  We walk by grace and by open-eyed choice (which is to say, by faith).  As St. John declares, "the darkness is past, and the true light now shines."  (I John 2:8)   

Here are a few more wonderful things Holy Scripture has to say of light and darkness.  You can find many more like these.

Isaiah 42:16 And I will bring the blind by a way [that] they knew not [says the Lord]; I will lead them in paths [that] they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do to them, and not forsake them.

Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined.

Luke 3 1:78-79 …the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.

2 Cor. 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:8  For you were sometimes darkness, but now [are ye] light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

I Thess. 5:5 You are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.


Lead, Kindly Light

Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile, which I
Have loved long since, and lost awhile!

(We won't bother, here, to deal with the curious idea that human beings turn into angels upon entering heaven.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

We Caught Santa Traveling Incognito

Yes, there he was, in the same room with us!  Santa Claus walked right into the little pancake house we frequent after church.  He was obviously trying not to be recognized, wearing jeans and sweatshirt, but there was no mistaking who it was, with his fat belly, his white, curly hair, white beard, sparkling blue eyes, wire-rimmed spectacles...

I waited until after he had ordered and then walked up to his table and said, "Good afternoon, Sir!"  (Probably should've said Your Grace or Your Eminence or something, seeing as he's a bishop...)

He smiled up at me.

"I didn't expect to see you here until just about a month from now," I said, breathlessly.

"Well, I got my notice in the mail this week," he replied.  (I've no idea what he was thinking at this juncture.)

I handed him my pen and a clean napkin, which was all I had to write on, and said, "Could I just trouble you for your autograph before you disappear back to the North Pole?"

"To whom shall it be addressed?" he inquired cheerfully.  I hadn't thought of that.  Um, well, okay, youngest grandkid who could appreciate it, Sydney.  So he wrote this note:

Dear Sydney,

Christ Mass is in sight
And I am watching.


"That should be 'LOVE, Santa'," I protested. 

"That's okay," he reassured me.  "She and I have met before and she knows I love her."

Then I asked whether many people had recognized him in his disguise.  "No," he said, his blue eyes twinkling.  "You're actually the first - this year, anyway."

So I walked back to our table congratulating myself on my astuteness as a detective, but then I re-read the note and began to have some qualms, because as everybody knows, St. Nicholas was/is an Orthodox saint, and, well, does that note sound to you perhaps just a bit Lutheran?

UPDATE, November 28: My qualms about this Santa Claus have proven well founded. Six-year-old Sydney saw through him right away. "He can't even spell!" she said, reading his autograph to her. I hadn't noticed it, but sure enough, he had spelled her name incorrectly.

"And he doesn't know how to spell Christmas, either," said Sydney. And although I assured her "Christ mass" was the original spelling, she didn't buy it. She didn't like the tone of the note, and tossed it aside as a fake.

I thought maybe there was something just a bit seedy about this imposter but I just didn't want to admit it to myself; he did look perhaps in need of a job. Well, maybe my mistaking his identity gave him an idea, at least, for some seasonal employment.

Jesus does NOT Have a Wonderful Plan for Your Life!

Please read this debunking of a persistent contemporary heresy.  I do not know who this Chloe is who wrote it, but it's very well said. 

Thanks to Marsha on Facebook for pointing it out, and also for the warning that the language is just slightly rough.  (Read it anyway!)

Partial List of Things That Happen While You're Gone Six Months

By the time I'd come to the end of typing this, I had to laugh. No comedy script could beat this, I'll wager!

  • Your DVR is stolen.
  • Your driver’s license is suspended.
  • Your vehicle registration is revoked.
  • Your fines accumulate compound interest.
  • Your so-called right to a hearing or appeal expires.
  • Your cars stop working.
  • Spiders take over your house.
  • Your children and/or grandchildren have birthdays.
  • Friends die.
  • The Internal Revenue Service discovers an error on your 2009 tax return, and you owe $300, counting all the piled-up penalties for not having replied by sometime in July.
  • You are summoned for jury duty and are informed there may be an arrest warrant out for you, as you never appeared. (Suddenly, we seem to have become outlaws in every respect.)
  • Your digestive system rebels and you contemplate setting up a cot in the bathroom.
 (Hint from Helen: Next time, you MUST hire some sort of service to go through your mail and notify you of anything that looks important.)
These are the issues that have occupied all our time since we came home; we haven’t even had time to begin planning the big family Thanksgiving to be held here. Oh, well, it’ll all come together one way or another, and we’ll still have plenty for which to be most grateful.

P.S.  Although we haven't had time to hook it up yet, our new DVR has arrived.  Things must be looking up, mustn't they?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

His Other Favorite Hymn

I think Carl's choice of favorite hymns shows his character so very well. To be led by God truly was his life's aim, and God honored that deep desire and did it.

And of course, Frank Patterson sings it even better than Carl did! Carl would deeply approve of this rendition. Please listen, in his honor.

Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile, which I
Have loved long since, and lost awhile!

Memories of Dr. Carl Harris

You loved him, loved him, from the first day of class every semester, when his lecture was always, “Learning for What?” I sat through 4 of them myself, and took notes every time. He spoke without notes, commenting on how education was not a value in itself, but was for improving virtue – or it could worsen evil. He pondered aloud the Socratic question whether virtue was more caught than taught. ("Virtue" was therefore the first Greek word every class learned, to be followed, in the same lecture, by "moderation" and "justice".) He spoke of “the golden thread” that ran through all branches of learning, uniting them, and urged us to search out and understand that thread. And you sat there feeling sort of radiant inside, even if it was the third or fourth or sixth time you’d heard this lecture.

He taught Greek, but his field was patristics, and he especially loved Origen for his allegorical interpretations of Scripture. He now and then remarked aloud how, when he grew up, the Bible had been something to cherish rather than to dissect. It was something you let judge you, instead of you judging it.

He spoon-fed us Greek, sort of one bite at a time, chew it well, digest it thoroughly, take another spoonful. He made us parse every single verb. Once on an exam I labeled a certain verb form “future subjunctive” and afterward said how idiotic I felt, because there is no future subjunctive in Greek. His comment, beaming, was, “But it’s good this happened, because now you’ll never forget it again.”

Once I had a dream in which Dr. Harris’ mother died and he was departing for home from a train station, and I ran up to him and said, “You are not to worry! Remember that whether in life or in death, there is no separation for those who are in Christ.” When I woke up, I had an incredibly strong urge to go and tell him this dream, but of course that was stupid, so I didn’t. The next night I dreamed it again, and then a third time, and each time, the feeling I should tell him about it strengthened, until finally I did. I found him in his office and I blurted out the dream and I said, “I know it’s just dumb, but somehow I had to tell you.”

He said, “You see this band-aid on my cheek? I’ve had a growth removed. That was done Monday (the day I’d first had the dream) and now I’m waiting for the results of the biopsy. I’ll find out on Friday. But meanwhile, I won’t worry. I’ll remember, there is no separation.”

So we both stared at each other with tears in our eyes.

And from that day, there was this mysterious connection between us. I can’t remember all the ways in which this would show up, but I can remember the peskiest one: I could always tell, even before I saw him any given day, whether his arthritic knees were hurting, because my own, non-arthritic knees would hurt when his did, and only when his did. And I was glad to be there, more than a decade later, when he had the surgery to replace both knees.

He had a good singing voice, so I once asked him to sing at a social event, but he declined. I said I was hoping he would sing, “Balm in Gilead,” and he looked startled and said, “That’s my favorite hymn!” I had not known that, but he sang it after all, and beautifully, too. (His other favorite hymn was, “Lead, Kindly Light.”)

Our class, which had been together for two years by the time we finished New Testament Greek, all chipped in at the end of the year to buy Dr. Harris a full set of The Interpreter’s Bible, and each student inscribed one volume of it.

That was mostly just for love, but also partly to make up to him for pranks we had played. In one of them, we all agreed to sit up and look alert and interested whenever his pacing would bring him to the right side of the classroom, and to slump and look bored and sleepy whenever he moved to the left. Before the class was over, he was standing almost exclusively on the right, much to our amusement.

Like very, very many of his students, I kept in touch with him for many years after I had graduated. Our correspondence only tapered off when Demetrios and I began going abroad every year; that made things more difficult.

All the good things said about him in the obituary are gross understatements. He didn’t just have a “genuine concern for the people around him,” he was madly in love with everybody. He didn’t just have good manners; he was the sort who, before you’d sit down, would pull his handkerchief from his pocket and dust off the seat of the chair. He didn’t merely see beauty and love in his life; he saw Christ, and followed Christ, and Christ shone from him to all those around.

He had some heavy crosses to bear, and he bore them with patience, love, gratitude, and unblemished character.


There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin sick soul.

Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.


If you cannot sing like angels,
If you cannot preach like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus,
And say He died for all.

Please excuse me now, while I limp off toward Gilead.

My All-Time Favorite Professor, Whom I am so Blessed to Have Known

Retired professor Carl Harris dies
August 25th, 2011 | Faculty News

Professor Emeritus Carl V. Harris (’44), whose gentle ways and love of the classics inspired generations of students, died Aug. 9 in Winston-Salem. He was 88.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, at Salemtowne Retirement Community in Winston-Salem.

Harris taught Greek literature and language in the classical languages department from 1956 until retiring in 1989. He is survived by his wife, Lucille, a retired music instructor at Wake Forest.

A native of Morganton, N.C., Harris attended Mars Hill College before majoring in Greek at Wake Forest. While at Mars Hill, he received a medal for “scholarship, character and manners,” words that just as easily described him 70 years later.

“He was devoted to learning and teaching in an especially commendable way,” said Provost Emeritus Edwin G. Wilson (’43), who met Harris when the two were students on the Old Campus. “He found beauty in the Greek classics, and he believed in the presence of beauty and love in his own life. He was a remarkably gentle and loving person.”

Associate Professor and Chair of Classical Languages James Powell became close friends with Harris and his wife when he joined the faculty in 1988. “He was a gentle man, very thoughtful, with a sweetness of temperament. “There was an extraordinary warmth about him. He had a genuine concern for the people around him.”

Powell said Harris considered himself a teacher first, and a classicist second. “He was very good at teaching Greek, but what really stood out to me was his belief in teaching the whole person and his concern for students as human beings. The level of devotion to his students was quite remarkable. He embodied a lot of the old Wake Forest in that.”

After graduating from Wake Forest, Harris received a Master of Divinity and the Master of Sacred Theology degrees from Yale University and his Ph.D. from Duke University. He taught briefly at Mars Hill, East Carolina University and the University of Dubuque in Iowa before joining the Wake Forest faculty in 1956, the first year on the new campus.

When he retired in 1989, Harris said, “I could never say that I have been bored in teaching my subject, Greek, all these years. I have not been bored because I have had different students and every day presents a new challenge… For me, teaching is not so much an occupation as a way of life.”

- By Kerry M. King (’85)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Insider Tidbit

Oh, and by the way, would you like to know what brand of detergent the White House laundry room uses? It uses Cheer. That’s why the President’s French-cuffed shirts smell so heavenly when they’re hung out to dry.

– from “My Week at the White House”, the first-person account I wrote and was going to post for you in its entirety, but that was before I woke up. I've forgotten the rest.

(In waking life, I have no idea whether Cheer laundry detergent smells particularly good or not.)

To Further Disabuse You, Maybe

A couple of hours before we left Greece, we went to the pharmacy across the street from us and I got a flu shot for six Euros, which is something under $9. That's compared with $25 here in Richmond, a couple of years ago, anyway.

(And as the pharmacist wasn't there to administer it, Demetrios did it instead. And it never hurt, during or afterwards. I thought at least my arm might be sore the next day, but no.)

Homecoming Part I

15 November, Tuesday

Coming home from Greece we had the best trip ever. We had no bad weather, no long lines, no missed connections, no delays, no baggage, no circuitous routes, and overall it was very nearly an ideal trip.

Demetrios has the feeling something is wrong. Our toolbox is not in its place, but I think maybe we just failed to put it away or something. The sheer curtains are all open, and he thinks he drew them all before we left. One cabinet door is open, but I said there was an earthquake, after all, while we were gone.

The main problem I see is spiders! It happens every year; they take over in our absence. You have to go through the whole house with a broom in front of you, so it catches the cobwebs instead of your face or hair getting them all.

We dragged ourselves to a grocery store to buy some things for breakfast and lunch tomorrow.
Too tired to bother with anything else now; time to tumble into bed.

16 November, Wednesday

Demetrios was right after all. Someone has been in this house. Our brand new DVR is missing, the one that actually belongs to Verizon. The front and back doors both open and close with difficulty, as if someone had forced them and now they don’t work as well as they should.

We’ve looked around and so far haven’t found anything else missing. Our TV is too old and too heavy to steal; it isn’t even a flat-screen. Ditto our stereo equipment, which consists of a turntable (yes!) and tuner and speakers. Our microwave oven is so old nobody would want it. Oh, and there were no power tools in our toolbox. We are not handy people, and we only have a very few basics.

Verizon says they’ll ship us a new DVR, but if the other isn’t found, it’ll cost us $300.

We think we know who took it, but there’s no point in saying who, in case we’re wrong.

Never mind; all this was the least of our problems today!

The biggest problem was what we found as we settled down to peruse our six months’ worth of mail. Ninety percent of it is junk, of course. (Demetrios once made the mistake of giving $5 to every charity that asked, naively supposing maybe this would satisfy them, get them off his back. He never dreamed the reverse would happen.) But in with that junk was a letter from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. It demanded proof that my automobile was insured as of September 28. I must reply by November 10 or my driver’s license would be suspended, my vehicle’s registration would be cancelled, plates invalidated, I would forfeit the right to a hearing or appeal, and would have to pay $645 and provide proof of residency in order to reinstate any of the above.

A telephone call to the DMV provided no satisfaction. Okay, off to the DMV in person, armed with the appropriate insurance policy, to clear up this mistake and explain we were out of the country. Had to go in Demetrios’ car since my plates were invalid.

Oops. His car wouldn’t start. Should we go in mine after all, taking the chance? Oops, no, the rearview mirror has fallen off – again. For the third time. (The earthquake shook it loose, or Pep Boys doesn’t know how to re-attach a mirror??)

Okay, drive my car across the edge of the flower bed to bring it near enough to his car to jump-start it. That worked and only harmed a few plants.

So we get to the DMV and things go from bad to worse, because it turns out all the same issues pertain also to Demetrios’ driver’s license and plates and car registration and fine and so forth. This, although we never received any notification or correspondence concerning it.

We dealt with two clerks, the first of whom told us things that made no sense and were completely contradicted by the second clerk, who explained that (a) the first clerk was NOT the supervisor, as she had claimed to be and (b) these letters demanding proof of insurance are sent out at random. Can you believe that? In this computer age, the Department of Motor Vehicles has no better way of knowing whether a car is insured? I think it is sheer harassment; that’s the only explanation I can find that makes any sense, and it makes very little.

The second clerk is also the one who informed us that Demetrios was in the same situation as I; the first clerk never bothered to mention that little twist.

In the end, we got the two $500 fines waived, but still had to pay $145 each to reinstate our driving privileges and vehicle registration and all. Demetrios, however, had to get a brand new license, new photograph and all; his current one is permanently suspended, AND the suspension goes on his record. He also had to make a trip all the way home to get his passport, which was accepted as proof of residency. ???? The DMV has been corresponding with us annually for nearly 21 years now, and receiving checks with our home address on them, and they didn’t know we were residents????

It’s small but heaped-up injustices like this that make one begin to doubt the legitimacy of ones government.

All this took us until after 5:00.

At six o’clock, in the dark and in the rain, we set out to meet Nick and Sharyn, to drive together to the other side of town, where Nick had arranged a little get-together at the newest Greek restaurant, owned by a friend of ours. Ahhh! To reconnect with friends! Balm for the weary soul.

Except that on our way to Nick and Sharyn’s house in Demetrios’ car, our headlights failed. We limped along, using the brights, which however only worked as long as you kept holding the switch with one hand.

I didn’t even have a chance to call Kelly, my oldest granddaughter, on this, her 10th birthday. Happy birthday, sweetie! I love you.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Blog Note

Our time in Greece is winding down rapidly. In your kindness, do not be alarmed at the silence there may be on this blog for a while; we shall be very busy now. Even after we get home, there will be a whole checklist of chores like reading 6 months’ worth of mail and making our annual medical appointments.

When we get back to Richmond, guess what’s the first thing I’m going to do? Take a bath! A real bath, after six months of showers only, in my extra-deep soaking tub, with lavender bubble bath.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

To Disabuse You, Maybe

Thursday I bought a whole year’s supply of one of my medications for the equivalent of under $39 ($3.24 per month). That’s without any health care insurance. Back in the States, I pay $15 for a one-month supply. That’s more than four and a half times what I pay here. And that’s my co-payment, supposedly after insurance. And it’s for a generic version, not the brand name I buy here.

You didn’t really think Mr. Obama had reformed the American health care system, did you?

That absolutely cannot be done unless you eliminate this sort of price gouging by pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, hospitals, and doctors. Otherwise, the tinkering you do around the edges of the health care system will be purely cosmetic, never substantive.

It’s a huge scam, and the biggest change is that now everybody must buy into it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Challenge for Bird Lovers

Katerina has a bird in a cage that she says was originally wild. She says he was a baby when she first got him this Spring and it’s a male, so obviously the sexes of his species are different. I can’t find anything even similar to him in my “Birds of Europe” book, and I’ve searched carefully, twice. Can you identify the mystery bird from the following description?

He’s smaller than a sparrow, with a long, slender build. His feet are for perching (not webbed). His legs are not unusually long, so he isn’t a wader. His beak is straight and slender, needle-like. It isn’t long or heavy, like a woodpecker’s, nor hooked like a parakeet’s, nor triangular, like a sparrow’s, and (I won’t swear to this, but I think) it’s dark. He is mostly black, or at least very dark, with white or light underparts. He has black cheeks, the black curving down along either side of his throat, but the throat itself is white. (Yes, definitely.) He has a small, distinctly rust-red dot on each cheek, like a cockatiel. He has one or two bright yellow feathers in his otherwise dark tail. He carries his tail down, not cocked like a wren. The light in which I was observing him wasn’t the best, but I couldn’t see any speckles or bars on his breast at all; it appeared solid white. He has no crest, or perhaps I imagined the merest hint of one, nothing prominent like a cardinal’s. He has a pretty, melodious voice. He is very active, nervous, and not fond of his cage. He eats seeds, in captivity at least. I watched him tuck eagerly into a fresh cabbage leaf, too.

That’s it, but you should note I’ve probably missed something important, like wing patches I didn’t notice, or whatever. I thought I’d observed enough to distinguish him easily enough, so I didn’t pay attention to everything you would have.



Wednesday, 09 November

It’s so magnanimous, isn’t it, for the ruling political party to decide to share power with the minority party? So bi-partisan, so patriotic.

Or is it? When you merge a nation’s two (or three) major political parties, viz., the only ones that much matter, you get

(1) a government no one elected – and no one likes

(2) no opposition left in Parliament

Of course, the so-called opposition was only that, only so-called to begin with, but that was at least something. Now there’s nobody in government left to point out the other side of any argument, to suggest a possibly better plan, to challenge the leaders, to say, “Wait just a doggone minute!”

Well, okay, there are the Communists. The Communists are actually speaking for the people just now, and they’re the only ones. How’s that for a jolly mess?

This will be the status of Greece if the politicians succeed in forming a joint government, which as of this moment they haven’t.

It they do, the scarier question for the Greeks is, What Next?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Kastoria for the Weekend

Or, Carrying Charcoal to Newcastle
Talk about beautiful. Everything about Renna and Theodosios is beautiful. Their souls are beautiful. Their children are incredibly beautiful. Their grandchildren are beautiful. Their village, Petrokerassa (“Cherrystone”) is as beautiful as anywhere in beautiful Greece. And Kastoria, the town where their daughter and son-on-law and grandchildren live, is beautiful. It surrounds a large lake and is closely hemmed in from behind by mountains. It’s a very old little city, with quaint architecture all its own and at any rate used to be a very rich city, although times there are as hard as elsewhere. People made fortunes from the fur industry. Kastoria is the fur capital of the world. Or perhaps not so much any more; that was before the Chinese came with their tons of questions and such great interest (how flattering!) and their video cameras… Kastor is “beaver” and I suppose the beautiful city is named after that furry creature.

Renna and Theodosios went there earlier in the week to help their Katerina with the grandchildren, while Nikos was away in Athens to give a lecture. (And while he was there, his sister, who is one of the Prime Minister’s innermost circle, got him into the Parliament where he was able to observe firsthand all the amazing things going on there in the last several days.)

So Renna and Theodosios invited us to come for as much of the week as we liked, and we accepted.

Turned out Mena and Kostas had a wedding there on Saturday night, so they cadged us an invitation and we all went to Kastoria together on Saturday and stayed until Sunday evening. Katerina got us rooms in the Hotel Kastoria, which sits right on the lake, and both our rooms overlooked it.

Of course we didn’t know how to get to the hotel. I’m finding out more and more people have the same habit as Demetrios, of going somewhere without first figuring out where it is. That’s hard for me. My father was the sort who consulted a map days ahead of time and then highlighted the route with a marker, and even figured out where he was going to stop for food and fuel. He once drew Demetrios a map of the route from my parents’ house to the subway station, 6 blocks away. The printed map wasn’t detailed enough.

However, by asking our way repeatedly, we found our hotel, and were pleased that our rooms both overlooked the lake and had huge bathrooms.

Katerina hosted the midday meal. Katerina has succeeded her mother as the most beautiful woman in Greece. She and Renna served some delicious salads, one with pomegranate, and rice and heavenly, heavenly chicken in sauce. Mena had brought a “sausage” for dessert, a sausage of chocolate. “Just for you,” she told me with a smile. I said, “As you know, I don’t eat chocolate, but since you made it just for me…” There were two or three other sorts of chocolate, as well.

Little Spyros, who is six now, still has blond hair and enormous blue eyes with very long lashes, and his sister, Semiramis (accented on the second syllable) looks just like him. She’s three, and we hadn’t seen her since her baptism in June, 2009. Though the children are shy about speaking English, they both understand whatever you say. That’s because their other grandmother, Norma, makes a point of speaking to them in English all the time. She lived in Canada for 12 years when she was young.

Norma and her husband, Spyros, the other grandparents, came over in the late afternoon. I was very happy to see them, partly because they are such kind, good people, partly because of having another person with whom to speak English (though Renna and especially Katerina both speak it well, too), and partly because I was worried about the senior Spyros, who has Alzheimer’s. I stayed and conversed happily with them while Mena and Kostas and Demetrios went to the wedding service.

Spyros is at that stage at which he no longer takes part in conversations; if you say anything to him he will answer very briefly (and very politely) but you can’t really have a dialogue with him any more. He still looks very dashing though, dresses nattily and is handsome, with bushy white eyebrows over very blue eyes. And as I pointed out to Norma and Katerina, the good thing about dementia (if dementia can be said to have anything good about it), is that although his condition is breaking your heart one piece at a time, the patient himself is not unhappy. That’s some consolation, especially if, like me, you wonder whether the condition is hereditary.

The others returned form the wedding by about 6:30, and as the reception wasn’t until 8:30, we had time to chat. I had a look at the wedding invitation, trying to see if I could understand where the reception was to be held, as nobody else seemed to take an interest. The Hotel of the Lake, the Swan Room. Wherever that was.

The invitation was engraved on very heavy cardboard, and besides announcing the couple’s parents, also announced the koumbaroi, the best man and maid of honor. Bottom right corner had telephone numbers for RSVPs, and down on the bottom right corner, for your convenience, was the couple’s bank account number.

Norma said I should go to the reception. She knew the parents of the bride, and they were very rich, so it would be a glamorous affair. So at about quarter to nine, we set out, having only a vague notion, from Theodosios, where we were going, but asking our way.

It was only as Demetrios was helping me off with my coat I realized my huge gaffe. Here we were in the fur capital of the world, and my coat? It was of fake fur! With large, rhinestone-studded buttons. The other ladies were wearing diamonds, probably flawless, priceless ones, but only one per person. Understated elegance, I saw, was the theme of the evening among the glitterati. (Oh, and the fashion in women’s hair, for anybody interested, is long and straight, blonde if you can get away with it, and worn back or up, if you’re over 50. Well, I got the blonde bit right…)

There were 44 tables, each decorated with white roses and many candles and each seating 11 guests.

The people at our table were all very friendly, with big, welcoming smiles. In fact, all weekend long we had the impression the Kastorians were people of exceptionally good character. Demetrios remembered having that impression on our previous visits, too.

The bride was beautiful, the groom, dashing, and as they danced their first dance, he sang the words to her. They were a sweet, sophisticated couple. Don’t ask me to describe the dress; it was so simple I hardly noticed anything about it except the overall, elegant effect. She looked like a princess, as a bride ought to. She was the kind of bride you look at and think, “He’s a lucky man,” and he was the kind of groom that makes you feel she is a lucky woman, too, and you feel so pleased, so happy, to see them united in holy matrimony.

There were waltzes and cha-chas and Greek dances, and we danced until we were all exhausted and had to go back to our hotel.

Theodosios was to meet us in the hotel lobby to take us to church in the morning, but somehow we all found ourselves in the dining room, helping ourselves to a buffet breakfast and looking over the lake. It was shrouded in fog and the whole world looked white, even the trees, just now in their peak autumn glory (even though it’s already distinctly winter in mountainous Kastoria). Colorful little boats were bobbing near the shore.

There are all sorts of water birds on the lake: cormorants, gulls, white geese, assorted ducks, coots – and a flock of White Pelicans. We watched them in amazement as they gathered near us, flying in formation, small groups at a time. They glide very near the surface of the water, scarcely moving a muscle, so they look like planes landing. Then their legs, tucked under their tails, come down and forward, and the pelican lands heels-first in the water, sending up a spray like a water-skier and spreading its wings in a braking action. Of course, nearly all birds, from pipits to parakeets, land in pretty much this same way, but the pelican does it in slow motion, and he is very large, so you see it all much better. And not many birds can glide as far and as perfectly as the pelican.

We did make it to church, albeit late. It’s a new church, all in red stone, and it comes complete with beggars outside the door. These, however, were not the usual beggars. Oh, no. These were fat, twin puppies, wagging their identical tails, looking up at you with soft, brown eyes, and begging for a master or a mistress. They were 9 or 10 weeks old, black and tan, and marked like dachshunds but not at all shaped like them. We wanted them both. Too bad. Serious cases of heartbreak.

Inside, the church seems smaller than it looks from outside. That’s probably because it’s five stories tall, counting the dome. It’s new, so the walls, although well decorated with frescoed icons, are still mainly white and bright. There is no iconostas yet and the dome and other high places where frescoes will eventually go have been left unpainted meanwhile.

I looked around at the people. One man was wearing a fur coat. Several men wore suede jackets. Other than that, there was none of the famous local fur or leather in sight, except my fake fur. Of course not; fur is generally thought too showy to wear in church.  Besides, in Kastoria, the traditional way to wear fur is INSIDE your coat, where it can really keep you warm. It took me a while to get over my stupid self-consciousness and focus on the prayers.

Downstairs there is a chapel to St. Anastasia that Theodosios wanted me to see, so we went down there—and encountered the family of one whose memorial we had just sung, who showed us the chapel and bid us eagerly sit down and eat a little something with them. So we did, Greek coffee with spanikopita and cake.

Wherever we go, when people find out Demetrios is a psychiatrist and see his kind face, there are women eager to tell him their problems. I’m used to it and don’t mind any more (if I ever did). But these problems were really wrenching, because they were economic at root. These were people feeling they were going crazy from worry about mortgages and bills they normally would have paid in full and on time, but today cannot pay at all. These are hotel owners and shopkeepers whose businesses have flat-lined. (Who can afford a fur coat today? Who can afford a holiday?)

Again, we had the strong sense that people in Kastoria are extremely kind, good, and friendly. So that made their plight extra sad.

Next, we met everybody (Norma and Spyros, Renna, Katerina and little Spyros and Semiramis) for a snack and coffee at a little waterfront café. I never know how to describe these convivial gatherings, but again I think they are foretastes of heaven.

We missed Nikos (Katerina’s husband) even more than we normally would have, because he is a professor of sociology and – guess what? – political science! The latter is his passion, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have been the only one eager to pick his brain on current events in Athens, which he has been witnessing firsthand this whole last week. (Plus, like this whole family, he’s a treat for your soul and a treat for your eyes, as well.)

The fog lifted, the sky and the lake turned blue, and all the colors of foliage glowed, so we enjoyed one last stroll along the lake before going home. Little Spyros set up quite a ruckus by tossing a stone into the air, which every bird for a quarter mile around mistook for food; they all mobbed him, honking, shrieking, quacking, flapping. (Pelicans sound approximately like a foghorn.) He got a big kick out of all this and did it another time or two.

Then, back to Thessaloniki, again not knowing beforehand how to get to the highway, but asking our way as we went. We had remarkably little trouble and were home two hours later, very tired, very sleepy, and greatly rejoicing.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

As the World Turns

Wednesday, November 2

Today was a fascinating day in Greek (and European) politics. The Prime Minister has announced a referendum on the austerity measures (or something) in January. Thing is, he has already signed all the agreements with the Europeans, so as one old lady put it, “Why is he asking us now?”

Except for the Communists, the other political parties here are against the referendum. Their opinion is that the current government should get out and national elections should be held. Fat lot of good that would do, get rid of crooks X, Y, and Z and put in their places thugs A, B, and C.

The European leaders were startled, too, but after expressing their alarm, back-pedaled some, because of course they can’t be seen openly opposing a democratic process.

Stock markets dropped precipitously all over Europe and in America.

One effect of this proposed referendum is that the agreements with the EU aren’t going to be implemented now until after it. After all this great hurry, after even flouting the Greek Constitution because allegedly the agreements had to signed NOW, after all this scrambling to meet some deadline, now nothing will be done until January, if then. January! Why wait that long? How will Greece manage without those funds from Europe?

Another effect of the referendum will be to help rehabilitate America’s man here, the Prime Minister, together with his cronies. They’ve all been publicly and repeatedly called traitors, and now they’re ostensibly willing to consult the will of the people.

What in the world is going on? (One theory we can safely rule out is that the P.M. has had a change of heart and is on the people’s side after all. They can’t pay him enough.)

But this is not all that happened here in today’s episode! No, there was another major twist in another plotline. Today the Minister of Defense called together his joint chiefs of staff, together with other senior military officers, and he fired them all. It was announced he would replace them all with totally inexperienced people. This on the day some of their Turkish military counterparts were in Athens. Does their visit have anything to do with it? I don’t know. The Minister says he fired them because of insubordination shown in the parades on Ochi Day. But I think it’s all part of the government’s now thirty-year-long campaign to destroy Greece as an independent nation. They had already gutted the armed services years ago. (Why, you ask? Because this government does America’s bidding, and America has to placate her much-desired ally, Turkey, and Turkey wants Greece back. Mr. Obama called the Greek islands “Turkey’s necklace.”)

Either that or else the Minister of Defense was afraid these senior officers might be plotting a coup. Well, if they weren’t, they may well be now!

Strange, all very strange! Soap opera on a world stage.

UPDATE: The Puzzle Solved! (Summary of Friday’s Episode)

There isn’t going to be any referendum after all. What was going on has become obvious now: it was a very deft piece of shadow theater by the Prime Minister.

The opposition parties cried out against the referendum and clamored for elections, for a new government, and scheduled a no-confidence vote in Parliament. They were sure to win it as, combined, they are a majority. Mr. Papandreaou made them look ridiculous which, of course, they are, so that wasn’t difficult. He said well, you can’t have it both ways. You’re against our agreements with Europe yet you don’t want a referendum (which everybody knows you would win).

Then he met with them and made a shrewd deal, a sort of blackmail. He said he would call off the referendum if they would vote for him, but otherwise, well, he was in such deep political trouble he had nothing to lose in any case. They were desperate to call off the referendum since they, too, are the henchmen of foreign interests and all the differences with the Prime Minister are no more than theater. In reality, they’re all in cahoots and the last thing any of them wants is the Greek people to speak their overwhelming “Ochi!” to what all the parties are paid to achieve.

So the P.M. (1) got to cancel the referendum he never intended to hold in the first place, (2) got his vote of confidence in exchange for it, and (3) gets to blame the opposition for there being no referendum. He himself, like a good democrat, tried to have one, tried to let the people speak, but was thwarted by the bad guys. This is the response to the nation-wide protests a week ago today.

I really do stand in awe of the cleverness of it all.

But he underestimates the Greek people; I do not think they will be fooled. No, his days as Prime Minister are numbered,

Of course that’s not at all a bad deal for him because he can retire and try to enjoy the wealth for which he sold his country and himself, while another member of the same gang shoulders the workload. And gets more chances to dip his own finger into the honey pot.

Hot Preview of the Next Episode: A New Government for Greece

Oh, never mind. Some times soap opera plots become just too unbelievable. Anybody remember when Ridge told Brooke and Taylor (the two women who had each been married to him at least tiwce), he couldn’t decide between them until they got over their mutual hostility, so he had them holed up in the family vacation cottage together with a psychotherapist to teach them to get along, using a bunch of silly gimmicks? Yeah, right. Greece’s new coalition government, the one the politicians are trying to form, is about as believable as that.

Well, it’ll accomplish at least one useful thing, which is to demonstrate more clearly than ever that both parties are working the same dirty deals. Only now, instead of competing to see who will get to do it, they will all sell out Greece together and share the spoils – and the blame, but that won’t much bother them.

I shall not burden you or myself with the grubby details. I plan simply to remember that God in heaven does not approve of these sorts of things, He does not allow them to go on forever. His justice brings mercy and his mercy brings justice for the oppressed.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


No, no, no, no, no. To call your leaders “traitors” gives away the fact that you are still buying into that whole antiquated, anti-progressive, benighted, backward concept of “nationhood”. Nationhood? Separate countries, each with its own language, its own currency, its own ways, its own values, its own identity, its own laws, its own food and music and art and dancing, etc., etc., etc.? That’s what throughout history has caused wars and imperialism and genocide and innumerable other evils. The idea of nationhood is chauvinistic, small-minded, very bad for business, and downright fascist! Enlightened people today are citizens of the world, like Socrates. Outgrow the idea of separate, competing countries and you’ll easily perceive that betraying ones country is impossible. No such thing. The only traitors are those who betray the world community: you, for example, if your loyalty is smaller than that and you are still holding out for your own country.

Excuse me now, while I go learn how to sing the Internationale. Anybody want to join me? No? I somehow didn’t think so. Maybe I won’t, either. I’m feeling rather too nauseated to sing.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Do you remember when banks used to offer incentives (aka bribes) to potential customers in the form of little gifts? As in, “Open a checking or savings account with us and receive a free toaster!”? Nowadays it’s, “Open a credit card account with us and you can transfer you debt to our card and pay it off interest-free,” or “and get a round-trip airline ticket to any U.S. destination.”

Well, that’s what banks also do with big, BIG customers, such as national governments. Except it’s on a far bigger scale than toasters. Make sure, Mr. Senator and Madam Representative, to support a bill for the government to borrow $100 million from our bank this year, and if the bill passes, a million or so will go to your Swiss bank account.

Thus, the real problem our politicians face is the opposite of what they tell us. They’re always moaning about how to find enough money to cover expenses. Their real problem, though, is to find uses for all that money they borrow in our name. That’s why there’s so much pork in all the bills. That’s why there are items such as that bridge to nowhere Sarah Palin made infamous, and other idiotic programs. That’s why even politicians who lambast “big government” keep on voting for it. That’s why each cabinet minister here in Greece has on average a hundred paid advisors among his family and friends. Up to now, at least, they literally have borrowed more money than they knew what to do with (other than fight over how to divvy it up) and yet, no matter how much a government borrows and no matter how much it taxes, the money is never enough.

Does anybody remember Mr. Obama’s campaign promise to veto any bill that had any pork in it? Has he done that? Well, he can’t, because big money has to keep on being borrowed; therefore, there has to be pork to list on the expense accounts; expenses must in this way be exaggerated to “justify” the loan. And why must the big money keep on being borrowed? So the legislators can receive their “toasters”, so the banks can collect their interest, and eventually, so the whole house of cards can come tumbling down, as it has in various European countries, and a new international order can be imposed to “fix” the problem (preserving, all the while, the interests of the banks). You see how sweet all this is for what the Greek Prime Minister called, the “rich ruling class”? They make huge profits short-term, long-term, every way, all around.

In fiscal 2009, the U.S. deficit tripled from the year before.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


30 October, Saturday

Things are pretty bad when your best dreams at night are that a garbage truck has arrived. I’ve had that dream twice this week.

But today, at long last, the dream has come true. The garbage on our corner was been collected and hauled away. It took two trucks to do it. Apparently the first one ran out of room, so another one came by a couple of hours later. Ours was the last garbage to be seen anywhere in our neighborhood.

Thing is, some who had their garbage collected a week earlier have told us they haven’t seen a garbage truck since. So, although before the strike garbage pick-up was daily (and needed to be!), now there’s no telling when it will happen again

The Best Lies Are the Ones all Jumbled up With Truth

I’m a sucker for conspiracy theories.  The only conspiracy theory I never fell for at some time or other was that Roosevelt knew in advance the Japanese were going to bomb Pearl Harbor. It’s the only one I never believed and it turned out to be true beyond dispute.  A few years ago a man named Robert Stinnett wrote a book, “Day of Deceit”, which proves it conclusively.  Roosevelt was tracking every movement of the Japanese Navy, which, contrary to what was said at the time, did not maintain radio silence.  Roosevelt not only knew what was coming (hence, moved all the modern warships out of Pearl Harbor days before, for “exercises”, leaving only outdated ships in the Harbor), he’d deliberately provoked it.

But don’t call the political ideas I’ve been espousing of late conspiracy theories.  Last night on television, I actually heard the Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Papandreaou, say it aloud.  In his perfect American English, yet, because as you may know, he is a Greek American, educated at Berkeley (and Harvard, I think).  He said the financial problem is not just in Greece, but in many countries, and it isn’t just within the borders of the countries, but crosses borders, is an international problem.  True, so far.  The problem, he said, is a system by which some countries prosper and others don’t, and in which there is a big divide between ordinary people and – I quote – “a rich, ruling class.”  There it is, openly stated:  there’s an international gang of rich elites who are the ones who really run this world.  Okay, Mr. P., I’m with you so far.  You of course have to admit all this, because you’re aware the people here have already figured it out. 

But then comes the Big Lie, in his assertion that this is the problem “we have to fix.”  Yes, but…

But who’s we?  The “rich ruling class”?  As they indeed rule, aren’t they the only ones who could “fix” the problem, and does anyone really believe they want to reform the very system that has made them rich and powerful?  OH, and by the way, Mr. Papandreaou himself is actually one of the rich ruling class.  Has he ever been known to work in the best interests of his people?  No, he is the one who brought about the current crisis, and did it deliberately, to pave the way for this proposed fix.  It was rather naïve, perhaps, for him to think we should trust him to fix the problem he himself precipitated.

(To be fair, whatever I say about him or his party applies equally to the other political party.  They’re also bought and owned and run by the “rich ruling class”.)

So for him to imply he’s on our side is the first part of the Big Lie, and the second part is, of what does this proposed “fix” consist?  Why, of course, it’s going to be an international something that consolidates and strengthens and protects and enhances the wealth and the power of the “rich ruling class”.  A tiny bit more specifically, it’s going to be what one Greek politician calls a “pan-cosmic economic government”, meaning world-wide, although I think they’ll settle for a pan-European economic government at first.  Ahhh, a centralized economic/financial system.  Does that sound familiar?  Um, isn’t that what the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics tried to do, so disastrously?  (Mr. Papandreaou calls himself a Socialist.)

By its very nature, there’s only one thing such a “fix” could be, behind whatever Halloween costume they use to dress it up, and that’s a pan-European dictatorship.  The EU is already talking about putting an international (but mostly German) “Troika”, such as now directs the Greek economy, in place in other countries, such as Spain, Portugal, Italy, to manage their economies as well.  And by “Troika” we do not mean merely the three men at the top; we mean people who come and sit in every ministry of the government and tell it what to do; we mean a whole foreign administration.  The Greeks (and other countries, if the EU has its way) will now be governed with German efficiency.  That’s what people here are calling the “Fourth Reich”.

I don’t know, but would like to find out, who will be paying all these people.  I suspect the German taxpayer will be. German taxpayers are already being soaked for bail-out money, which is why they, too, are unhappy.  They are no more interested in paying to acquire colonies than Greeks are in being a colony.