Greek-American Stories: A Winter Adventure

Αssociated press

(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Winter had arrived with fangs, and skies threatened snow but I was comfortably reading my newspaper on my comfy sofain my cozy warm house when my two daughters decided to visit me with an invitation to go for a ride. “Where?” I asked, pleased that they had thought of me.“To New York City,” responded Sophia.

I gulped. “What’ll we do there?” asked this confirmed suburban housewife. “We can go to the wonderful Greek markets and get, you know, Greek stuff. Feta, olives, halva...” “I can get that stuff in Fort Lee. Why would I want to go across the river into an alien land?”

“Oh, Ma! You were born and raised there, f’r heaven’s sake! Anyway, it’s a chance to get out of New Jersey for a bit.” They’ve got to be kidding. I wanted to tell them that my passport has expired. I said, “Things there aren’t like we once knew.  Don’t you read the newspapers? Violent crimes, face slashing, random shootings, drugs, robberies...I don’t think so, kids. But, thanks, anyway.”

Ellen was miffed at my reluctance. “Ma! Those things don’t happen every minute. They’re in the newspapers because it’s an exception, headlines stuff, gotta sell newspapers.” Sophia offered, “There are good things, too. It’s not all bad.” “Oh, yeah! The parking meters work.” Then, I added, “How will we go? I won’t go into a cab in New York; not unless the driver speaks English, has been in the U.S. more than 48 hours and knows where Astoria is located.”

After another hour of bantering, they ushered me into Sophia’s car, secured me with my seatbelt and offered me an eye cover that I refused. As a point of conversation, I told them I used to ride the subway for a dime. Ellen said, “Ma! Everything cost a dime then.” I went on.“I’d go to work and come home with no episodes occurring, go to dances with my mom and take the subway at twelve o’clock at night, arriving home safe and sound. I doubt you can do that now.”  Sophia informs me,“You’ve got to understand you’re in the twenty-first century now. Dances and clubs and societies still exist. You just don’t go to any of them anymore.”

My first shock came when Sophia sped past the pay toll at the GW Bridge. “Sophia! You didn’t pay the toll!” She explained she had ‘EZ Pass’. Then, in New York, the sightseeing began; in doorways, men covered with blankets as if camping in the great outdoors, garbage the size of Alps of Austria piled high at the sidewalk’s edge. I mention it, casually. Ellen huffed, “They’re homeless;tomorrow is garbage collection day. It’ll all be gone then.” “Oh! Then, it’s ok” says I, trying to sound more cosmopolitan. Then, Sophia said, “Ma! Why don’t you write a letter to the mayor of New York? Tell him how you’dbring major changes to the city if you were mayor?” I thought and thought as we were crossing the bridge into Astoria. “Well, I’d hire more policemen to match the number of the population,” was my suggestion, observing street venders selling jewelry, watches and purses. We parked and entered the giant super market where we spent over $100 for stuff like,mizithra, paximadia, feta, olives,koulourakia, coffee for frappe and other practical articles, breathing a long sigh of relief having been in a store where the people were non- threatening, friendly and accommodating, the way I knew Greeks to be in my old neighborhood.But, my eye caught a blaze of flashing red and blue lights just a block away, police surrounding the corner area. The girls, the commotion unnoticed, got into the car and away we went. Once home, I unpacked, placed everything where they belonged, kissed my cat, Sissy and leaped like a gymnast on to my comfy sofa and clicked on the TV where I saw a news report showing a shootout, twowounded, one seriously and five policemen, pointing a gun on the suspect who is face down on the sidewalk. A grim faced reporter reported, “Suspect, now in custody, has a rap sheet an arm long, is suspected of having robbed several stores in this neighborhood inAstoria.” A chill swept over me. I realizedI’d seen those flashing police lights half hour earlier. Ellen phones me, “Ma! Tell the truth! Wasn’t it a winter adventure?”  I smiled. “Yes, it sure was.”