Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Stolen centrepieces and the Cyprus question

I'm taking my 265th break from work. No that's not a real number, that's the random number generator in my head working overtime. Just thought I'd write down my experiences of last Saturday before I forget all about them. So last Saturday, S and I scored tickets to the annual dinner of the American-Hellenic Council due to the generosity of a friend and EM's recommendation. The AHC is an organization of Greek-Americans and the big attraction of going to the dinner is networking opportunities (aka schmoozing), hooking up (does not apply to S and me) and Greek dancing. We didn't really make it in time for prime schmoozefest, the time before everyone sits down to dinner, when people are ambling around the lobby and receptive to conversations with strangers. The dinner was in the Biltmore Hotel in downtown LA, which seems to have been built in an era when folks had more ambition than taste. The outside looks unobstrusive enough, but inside is an exuberant mess,and not exuberant in a good way, with its high ceilings, uninspired murals and incredibly tacky carpets. But enough about the venue.

We arrived right in time for a slew of speeches that continued all through the salad, dinner, dessert, coffee and a couple of pee breaks. A number of people were being honoured whom we didn't recognize and then they proceeded to thank more people we didn't know and reeled off lists of more folks we didn't have a clue about. I looked around and found many masters of the art of dozing off while sitting ramrod straight. And then I had to amuse myself by checking out the rest of the room.

At the other end of the room was Soto with his brother, and his brother's girlfriend who looked like she was half his brother's age. Soto's brother P is a gorgeous man, one of the handsomest I've ever seen, and takes good advantage of his charm with women. Sitting at their table was a Greek Olympic gold medal winning gymnast, now Hollywood aspirant, who seemed to be the target of the horniness of many of the older women in the room, and yet sent our gaydar sensors into high spin. Oh puleeeeez, pretty boy gymnast, squeaky voice.....gay, gay, gay!!!! On the table next to us were two more aspiring actors, both rather famous in Greece, but starting as nobodies in Hollywood. Fame doesn't translate well, as the Javier Bardems of this world know. On the table behind me were Mike and Mike (I think they do have different formal names, but both answer to Mike). Mike the dentist is the prettiest robot, with a gorgeous plastic smile, but has some mechanical errors, like the tendency to always look over your shoulder to see if he's not missing out on better action elsewhere. Mike the lawyer has political ambitions, and hence was schmoozing up to political biggies throughout the evening. And then there was Aldo the musician, rolling his eyes as the speeches got longer and longer.

But then, something interesting happened. Someone mentioned Cyprus. Actually a woman who's not of Greek origin, but she represents Astoria in the US Senate, so of course knows what raw wounds to tweak. There was much slander directed at Turkey, and that brought thunderous applause in the room. A lot of these folks are an older generation of Greek-Americans and haven't forgiven the forced Greek exodus from Asia Minor or the Cyprus invasion. I don't think they take the changed geopolitical equation of Greece and Turkey into account, or what a new generation of Greek Cypriots may desire. But the infusion of energy into a room that had been hitherto napping or making eye contact for purposes of hook-up set the stage for the dancing that followed.

There was lots of dancing, and EM was appalled at the massacre of Cretan dance moves by the young Greek-Americans. I of course thought they were fine, with their rhythmic steps and beautiful synchronization. But I'm not Cretan so what do I know. Here are some folks who should know. There was a lot of other music as well, some tsifteteli (best described as Greek belly dancing), as well as kotsari. I've yet to see a nation as passionate about their dancing as the Greek. For most Greeks, dancing embodies the essence of the Greek spirit, bon vivant, refined yet raw, linked to the everyday celebrations of his/her ancestors.

As the evening winded down, we prepared to leave. And then we saw something really amusing. People were carrying off the beautiful floral centrepieces as they left! I asked someone next to me and he said that the organizers said it was alright to do so. Well, that anecdotal evidence was all the encouragement I needed to cart off one for my own apartment. So whatever the actual position of the organizers on the centrepieces may have been, now I have one sitting on my dining table, adding much needed organic life to a very uber-urban space.


Blogger Urmea said...

Dim Sum was great - we went to Ocean Harbor. It shocks me how cheap it is - two of us stuffed ourselves for $16.55 plus taxes etc!!
The drive on the 10 was horrendous though - the usual problems at the exchange with 110.
Now I have to try non-Dim Sum chinese in the area - for soupy dumplings maybe?? Reading the Chowhound board makes me hungry!!!

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