I can now fully appreciate the term “the thunder of the gods”. A storm is brewing outside and the rolling thunder just turned into a mighty roar. The mountains seem to echo the crackles and cacophony of sound. The black clouds have completely obscured the morning’s sunny skies. But if I’ve learned anything in the past 24 hours, it’s that every cloud has a silver lining…
Dinner did not go as planned last night. In very contemporary Greek fashion, our guests were unable to drive to meet us because a demonstration had shut down a major thoroughfare in the city. These demonstrations appear to happen often and seem to have little effect besides aggravating the rest of the population. Needless to say, I was a touch disappointed.
Renee, however, does not seem to know the word “setback”. She had other dinner plans arranged already and insisted I come along with her. We met her work associate, Peter, and then walked up one more block to her friend Strati’s house. Strati led us through his house to the back courtyard and asked his son to bring out some white wine.
There are some moments where I cannot help but compare aspects of life between Greece and America. When we speak of “old homes” in the States, we are usually referring to something built before the end of the 19th century or even Antebellum. Strati’s home was built in the 1600s. Several pillars decorating the backyard were, quite literally thousands, of years old. It was simply an unparalleled setting.
And the company certainly lived up to the environment. Renee works with a lot of people, but has been especially connected to Peter of late. It was a pleasure to meet Peter, as he was an incredibly friendly Brit with bright eyes and playful smile. He warned me early on that he liked to poke a bit of fun and lived up to that assertion. As I listened to my aunt converse with Peter, however, I was completely blown away by the depth and breadth of their work. Essentially, Peter has two companies. The first is a venue construction company. When I say venues, I mean 10,000 seat concert arenas. The ingenious bit of it is that the seats are retractable; the building can be turned into a convention hall in just minutes. And this “black box”, as he likes to refer to it, can be built in three months.
Now that is impressive engineering.
The part that really grabbed my attention, however, was the second company Peter runs: an entertainment corporation. Essentially, whenever he builds a venue, he can guarantee three years of solid bookings. He booked Beyonce her first concert in Egypt (to the chagrin of some members of the Islamic brotherhood), he’s done an incredible number of concerts in Lebanon (ex. Elton John), he booked the Black Eyed Peas in Quebec (with an audience of over 100,000), to name but a few of the thousands of projects he has been behind.
Peter would sporadically tap out a rhythm on the table, so at one point I asked him: “Do you play the drums?”
He grinned like a cheeky boy and said, “I was voted the best young drummer in the world back in the 70s.” When I asked if he played with a band his reply was, “I’ve played with everyone. From Ella Fitzgerald to Jimi Hendrix. I still get to play a couple times a year!” The enthusiasm in his voice revealed that drums were his true love in life.
Then there was Strati. Strati is in his 70s, deeply tanned with the distinctively overemphasized features of a true Greek. He was a lawyer by training, but acts as a highly regarded politician and advisor. The conversation during the night often touched on the state of the Greek political and economic system. I had studied the financial troubles of Greece a good deal in school this year, but hearing the truth of the situation from a Greek with so much knowledge of the system was very powerful (and rather upsetting).
We ate dinner under the stars, along a quieter side street in the Plaka. A true Greek meal of fava, lamb chops, and fresh fruit for dessert. Live music drifted down from a cafe up the road. Cats roamed the shadows and would occasionally cozy up to our table. Yes, this is Greece.