Being Greek Orthodox

“Christos Anesti” – Christ is Risen. ( And yes that is the extent of my Greek ). I spoke nothing but Greek when I entered kindergarten and even learned Spanish and Latin in school. Now I struggle with English. Too much of that Colorado pot, I guess my brain cells are dying.

Looking back it seems that I spent half my childhood doing something in or with the Church. There was GOYA, Cretan Youth, Greek School, Sunday School and best of all Altar boy. I served in the Altar when Father George Neofotistos  was Priest in Denver.  He was a very nice, religious man but very conservative. We would often have very lively “discussions” about social and political issues. We learned to respect each others opinions, even though I feel that Father George was wrong most of the time.  When I graduated high school and left the Altar, Father George wanted me to go to the Seminary. ( Rumor has it that the Church is considering making the day I left the Altar a Church holiday).

Father George had it all arranged for me to fly to Boston and see what I thought of the Seminary. I told him that I would not be happy there and needed to go to someplace with great academics and very liberal ( My three choices were Columbia – New York, Cal – Berkeley and my favorite CU – Boulder. Of course I got my admittance to CU last – figures right? ).

So, I went to CU and Father George wouldn’t speak to me for two months. We patched things up eventually and remainder close until he left Denver. ( To run the Seminary ironically ).  One very cool thing about being Eastern Orthodox is that our Easter is celebrated the same as everyone else only once every 4 years. This means we get Easter candy at reduced prices most of the time – pretty cool huh?

Infection!!!

Catchy title right? A while ago I had a prostate biopsy done. It was really cool. There was a big screen in the room and I got to watch. I keep trying to convince the doctor to do the same thing with my upcoming colonoscopy but he keeps on insisting that you have to be totally sedated. If someone is going to be poking and probing around inside of me I want to know what is going on. I come by this naturally, my dad keep on asking the doctors if he could watch every time they did heart surgery on him. To his disappointment the answer was always no.

When they do the prostate biopsy , they tell you that there is a one in a million chance of getting an infection. I soon found out that I was one in a million ( I always knew I was special) . The really bad part was that the infection decided to locate itself in my left testicle. The men reading this will all understand and sympathize with the pain. The women will probably refer to child birth as being more painful. I will say that passing kidney stones was the worst pain ever for me. At one point I kept asking the doctor to just shoot me and put me out of my misery.

I have been to the ER twice now as the doctors try and find the right pain medications and `anti bacterial medications. I have also been groped by more people than I care to mention ( All in the name of medical practice). I can hardly wait to see what happens with my colonoscopy.

Holy Week

Holy Week has me thinking about my dad. Not only did we attend Church every night  ( the only excuse for missing a service was death – your own ), but we always got there early ( an hour early usually, because ” How else will God know we are there if we aren’t sitting in “our” pew? I did not know God was so easily confused.) One family did sit in our pew one Sunday. The next Sunday I was told that they had moved out of town. I will miss them.

My dad also liked to keep attendance after we arrived. For example: 6:15 – about 30people in Church. 6:30 – over a hundred people in Church. 6:45 – the Church is almost full. 7:00 – Standing room only “This is why we come early, to sit in “our” pew and to have a place to sit. ( Ignoring the fact that you stand during most of the service).

My dad was also in charge of cooking the Agape meal after midnight services for several years. And I happily “volunteered”. “Don’t put the lamb in that oven. You call those potatoes, they look like mush. What did you do to the vegetables? Thank God someone else made the Baklava.” Constructive criticism , you know just in case I should ever want to become a chef. The way i looked at it was: at 2:30 in the morning these people were getting a free meal. If they didn’t like what was served or the way it was cooked, they could go home and cook their own damn meal – Happy Easter!!

In Addition

Last week I mentioned my Papou Steve forming a posse after my Papou Pete was shot. Well there are several other stories connected to this. The first related story is about Mr. Gerakis asking my Great Grandfather Seradakis if he could marry my Yiayia Helen. Apparently Papou Seradakis told Mr. Gerakis no because ” You only have one arm. How will you provide for my daughter with one arm? Plus, I can’t imagine looking over the dinner table at that stub.And don’t forget you have killed two men”. ( I found it interesting that the killing of the two men was the last thing mentioned. I guess we all have our different priorities).

The second story involves my mom and a field trip that she took. The way the story was originally told was that when she was 5 my mom took a field trip to the prison where she saw Mr. Gerakis and it scared her. When asked about this Papou Seradakis replied ” I am an uneducated man, maybe this is what they do in American schools”. My Papou Tony responded ” I am an educated man ( University in Athens) . I can tell you that American schools do not take 5 year olds on field trips to prisons”.

What we finally concluded was that yes my mom did take a field trip. Her school bus probably did pass the prison and Mr. Gerakis was out in the prison yard but the field trip was not to the prison. ( Unless this was the beginning of the scared straight prison program in the US).

Papou

We recently discovered that my Papou – Steve Kelaidis – led a posse to try and capture a man named Tony Gerakis after he had shot my other Papou Pete Regas. ( Kind of like an episode from the TV show Dynasty ). Gerakis managed to avoid the posse and hid in the mountains . Several days later he turned himself in to the sheriff. He confessed to the shooting and told the sheriff that he wanted protection from Steve Kelaidis, because he was deadly with a gun. He also told the sheriff that he was afraid that Papou Kelaidis would still be able to get to him inside the jail.

Now, I had always been told by many family members that Papou had a slight Cretan temper. However, I always remember Papou as a very kind and gentle man to his grandchildren. We would sit on his lap and help him play cards. Sure he was loud and cussed a bit ( he was Greek – right?). My mom would always tell him ” Dad you shouldn’t say those things in front of the kids”. He would answer back ” It won’t be the first time they hear such things. Better they should hear them at home first so they can ask questions” . ( Greek logic ).

My parents and other family members have often said that I remind them of Papou. I take that as a compliment. Papou was just an “average uneducated coal miner” but his love for his family and loyalty to his friends knew no bounds. If at the end of my life, I have accomplished even just half of what Papou did then my life will have been a success. May His Memory Be Eternal ( With stories like this I am sure it will be).

FBI CIA are not OK

One of the very first things that I realized when I got involved with the anti-war student group at CU/Boulder, was how very inept the FBI was at surveillance. Now let me first state that I have nothing but admiration and respect for the young men and women that serve to defend the US.  What I object to is the many foolish wars we get these  brave Americans involved in. Cu/Boulder anti war rallies were given more credibility because of the huge campus chapter of VietNam vets against the war that participated. These guys had first hand knowledge of what they were protesting against. We would gather for an anti war meeting and were more than happy when new people showed up. However, on occasion, the new guys would show up wearing suits and ties and had crew cuts. Normal guys on campus back in the day wore shoulder length hair and no one even owned a suit. ( nothing suspicious  here ). Of course the new guys were given wrong information and they always showed up to find no rally in progress. ( imagine that).

The FBI was even worse at phone taps and house surveillance. Ever time you picked up the phone you would hear a click and sometimes you could actually hear someone breathing on the other end. ( people are arrested for that sort of thing now a days). We would always yell into the phone or tap it against the table, just to let them know that their efforts weren’t a total waste.

Now take a suburban neighborhood where the neighbors have lived there a long time and know each other. One day a strange car drives onto the street and parks at a house and just stays there for hours, no movement at all ( perfectly normal – right?). One  particularly cold February afternoon my mom had enough and took the man in the car some Baklava and Greek coffee. She also told him he could come inside to warm up. I mean “What kind of horrible people did he work for that would have him sit in a cold car for hours on end?”. We never did see that man again.

Vote For Me

My parents were always very politically involved. As a kid I remember stuffing envelopes for JFK and the one and only time I was allowed to take a day off from school was to meet Bobby Kennedy when he came to Denver for a fund raiser.

Therefore it was only natural that when I entered high school, it was my duty to make sure that the student body was aware of what was happening in the world they were living in. And fortunately for me the University of Colorado – Boulder had a very active chapter of the SDS ( Students for a Democratic Society) . They organized anti war rallies and were more than happy to help organize these rallies on high school campuses.

The rally was a huge success. After the crowd dispersed I was quickly escorted into the principal’s office. I was informed that the school had some stupid rule about getting school board approval before holding rallies on school grounds ( seriously?). I was also suspended. However the next day my dad came to school with me and I was reinstated ( didn’t miss an hour of class ).  Over the next three years , several other rallies were held, just to make sure that the student body was kept current: Equal Rights, Civil Rights, Pro Choice/Equal Pay, Climate Control/Earth Day and for good measure one more Anti War. Yes , 6 rallies in all and 6 suspensions. Also 6 next day reinstatements without missing any school ( pretty cool).

On graduation day the principal shook my hand and handed me my diploma. He told me he was very happy that I was going to CU ( he never did say that he would miss me ). As I walked away I did hear him say under his breath ” He’s CU’s problem now”. I bet later on he retired out of boredom.

The Interview

Monday I went on  job interview. The purpose of these things is to see if you will be a good fit. In my whole life I have never been a good fit for anything and yet I have managed to find jobs and work very happily. Bottom line – I am looking for work and you have a job opening so just hire me damn it. No , they have to ask you stupid questions. The drug screens and background checks I get – but the stupid questions.

My favorite is ” Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?”. Now how the hell do I know, at my age it could be dead. How would they feel then? Or another popular one ” Why did you choose to apply at this company?” . Let’s see, I need a job and there was a job opening at that particular company. Connect the dots. I mean odds are I had never heard of that company before, let alone bothered to apply there if I didn’t need a job. And you are supposed to answer these questions very sincerely. Wonder how they would react if you said ” Are you friggin kidding me? What a stupid question – next”.

And then they ask for references. Preferably past co-workers or bosses. Fine now tell me, who is going to give them the name of someone who will say something negative about them? I mean what a waste of time. I had one HR person tell me very excitedly ” Your references were very complimentary and spoke highly of you”. Well duh, that’s because they wanted to still be around the next time I needed them for a reference.

Fairmount Cemetery

From the beginning of time, Denver’s Greek community buried their family members  in Fairmount Cemetery. This made it extremely easy for the Priests. On Church holidays they could go and bless everybody in mass. So it only made sense that when we moved to the Denver metro area that my dad wanted to make sure that we would spend eternity with the rest of Denver’s Greek population. Not only that but there was a Greek man working at the cemetery ( How lucky can you get?). My dad went to discuss with him the details of our final resting place.

We never found out what exactly happened but my dad became very angry with this man and determined that his family would not be spending eternity at Fairmount ( What are the odds of two Greek men having an argument?).  My dad decided that we would all be buried in a cemetery far away from the rest of the Greeks ( I still don’t see the downside in this). My dad decided to go to Hampden Gardens, lovely place, lots of room for expansion and no Greeks on the staff. We were set for life.

My mom didn’t like the idea of being buried in the ground, so he purchased a tomb on a side of the wall in one of the buildings. He also purchased my grave but never solidified an exact location. Because of this every few years I get a call ” Mr. Kelaidis your grave has been moved to a new location”.  This last time I told them to just put wheels on the coffin and they could move me around where ever they wanted. Colorado has such beautiful mountains, the only request I made was as they moved me around, to try and have me facing the mountains each time.

Colorado Aids Project

(Or CAP as we called it) was created by the gay community and its many straight allies. Something had to be done while the government remained silent and was content to let gay Americans die. Cap existed because of volunteers and donations.

One of the volunteer positions I did was the speakers bureau. Two people, the speaker and a person with aids , would go and talk to anyone who would listen ( schools, churches etc.) about aids. We would be seated in the front of the room at a table. We would ask for a glass of water and when given our water we would take a sip. I would stand up to speak. During my talk, I would reach back and “accidentally” take a sip from the wrong glass. The crowd would gasp and someone would say ” You drank from his glass”. A good teaching moment. I would then explain that aids could not be contracted that easily and that people with aids should be hugged and embraced, not feared and shunned and isolated.

I also volunteered at the free clinic, signing people in at the front desk. The clinic existed because some of the doctors, nurses and interns at the CU Medical Hospital convinced the Hospital that the clinic was desperately needed. These medical professionals donated their time freely, in the evening after their shifts. This provided a space for anyone to come and be tested free and anonymously.

The anonymous part was the tricky part because ,at the time, state law required a name and phone number when people signed in. We had a Denver phone book on the front desk and people would pick a name and phone number randomly. The state auditor never questioned the sign in sheets. He knew the good that was being done having the clinic open and the chaos that would be ensue if the clinic was closed. This place was packed every night. It also remained open long after the 9PM designated closing time. Even after working a full day at the hospital, these medical professionals stayed and made sure that everyone was seen and treated as best they could. To me this exemplified “Christian” “family values”.

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