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Greek-American Stories: Yiannis Goes Latino

As the New Year approached the guys in Dixon’s were discussing the annual celebration that the church gave each end of year. Dimos was first to mention it. “Well? Are we all going to attend the New Year’s Eve party at the church? How many should Father Apostoli expect from us?” John responded quickly. “Count me in! Penelopi and I look forward to the event.” Kipreos, downhearted, said, “I wish I could join you, but, I have to work that night at the hotel. It’s our biggest event. Sorry!” George responded, ”count me and my wife, Dimos.” Hesitant, Yiannis asked, “do they need a bar man or cloak attendant or…something this year?” Recalling that, each year, Yiannis always volunteered doing something to avoid the cost of the tickets, Dimos shook his head. “All those jobs are taken care of this time, Yiannis. Sorry! You and Areti have to come as guests – and pay the cost required.” The word, ‘pay’ made Yiannis wince. He volunteered as bar man last year, leaving the bar, at intervals, to dance with all the women who weren’t dancing. He had more fun and kept the tips from the jar as his reward. The previous year he served as cloak attendant and kept the tips in the jar, explaining he earned it for having kept the coats safe from theft. Another year he stood outside to welcome each guest before they entered and got tips, too. This year, they vowed, Yiannis will be a guest – period!  “The cost for the night is the same for you as for all of us. Ten dollars,” Dimos told him. Yiannis winced. “TEN DOLLARS?” He sank back into his seat, his mind scraping for a way to avoid emptying his wallet for something he’d avoided handing out all these years. George informed him, “Yiannis! That’s ten dollars – EACH!” John nodded. “That’s right, Yiannis. You have to pay for Areti, too, you know. She’s coming, isn’t she?” Giving a nervous shake of his head, Yiannis stuttered his response. “Yes, of…course…she’s…coming. I can’t leave my wife home while I…I…celebrate, you know.” Twenty Dollars was causing a sheet of sweat on his face as he absentmindedly dumped four teaspoons of sugar into his coffee. After a few moments of brain scanning, Yiannis seemed to relax. George, quick to notice, wondered why.

The evening began with people entering and leaving their coats with the attendant, then occupying festive tables in the basement of the church. At one of those tables sat John, his wife, seated beside Dimos and his wife. George and his wife arrived as they all welcomed a happy Areti. Looking around, Dimos asked, “where’s Yiannis?” Smiling, she said he’d join them a little later. George, skeptical, got up and checked the cloak room, bar, and entrance. Not there. But where? Father Apostoli opened the affair with a blessing and then a Latin band took their places on the small stage and began the festivities with a lively number while waiting for the Greek band to arrive.

The music began with a lively Cuban medley when they noticed Areti waving at someone on stage. They all looked up and observed a man wearing a brightly printed ruffled sleeved blouse and straw sombrero waving back. The group looked closely at the face and actions of the musician whose feet moved vigorously while shaking a pair of colorful Maracas. ”It can’t be!” said Dimos, rubbing his eyes. John shook his head. “Nah!”

Areti grinned proudly at the active figure onstage. “Isn’t he wonderful? He’s making music!” George, having just returned from speaking to the church’s director, announced, “he’s making more than music, guys. He’s making twenty dollars tonight!” Every astonished eye fastened on the man onstage who raised up his arms, crying out, ‘Viva!’ The multicolored ruffled sleeves fluttered as the maracas rattled in time with the vibrant music. He moved around like a true Latino. Suddenly, John broke into a fit of laughter and Dimos, lifting his glass of wine, and pointed his glass towards Yiannis, toasted, “cronia polla, Yiannis!”  Yiannis responded, “Muchas gracias, amigos.”

Not appropriate, thought George, but conceding to another of Yiannis’ successful monetary victories, George raised his own glass in a toast towards the stage and called out, “feliz años nuevo, Senior Yiannis!”

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