By Jeanne Adams
When I was growing up, among the many things I wanted to be was Greek.
I hear you laughing at my blond, very English/Scotch self, but I did.
Back then, my BFF was from a HUGE Greek-American family. She had this thick, gloriously black hair and sparkling black eyes, which I envied and although she only had one brother, she had a legion of incredibly handsome cousins and uncles and so on.
If I couldn't BE Greek, I wanted to grow up to marry one. Preferably her cousin, Anthony. (The picture there on the right bears a striking resemblance to the studly Anthony. Do you begin to see why I wanted to be Greek?)
I know that your imagination sometimes makes things bigger and more handsome than they might have been, but I found an old picture the other day (too faded to scan) and Anthony? Well, he's just as stunning as I remembered. Ha!
That family was like Nia Vardalos's characters in My Big Fat Greek Wedding in some ways. There was Saturday Greek school, and big picnics and festivals at the church, and lots and lots of baklava.
When my BFF's family, along with her long-widowed grandmother would go to Greece for a month in the summer I would look after her Grandmother's dog. The dog was a massive, enormous German Shepherd named Princess. Most of the neighborhood was terrified of this dog. She didn't care for most of the 'hood either, so the feeling was mutual.
For some reason however, Princess and I, we got along just fine.
It could be that I just loved her, or I was smitten with my paycheck: Mrs. G would give me $10 and bake me a whoooolllle tray of baklava in return for walking Princess twice a day, feeding her and so on throughout that month.
That baklava was astounding. I can still taste it - fresh and magnificent. It was the flaky kind, home-made, with the cloves piercing the top layer of phyllo dough, and cut into big, honey-dripping triangles. O. M. Gosh.
And while I never learned to like stuffed grape leaves, I learned to like pretty much anything else food-related that had the word "Greek" attached to it. Soulvlaki. Moussaka. Greek salad.
So when it came to hero material, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that Davros Gianiakopulos popped into my consciousness fully formed - like Athena, patroness of Athens, sprang from the head of her father, Zeus. Grins.
Unlike the fabled Anthony of my childhood, Dav is dark-haired and dark-eyed. I kind of pictured him as built like a tall version of Vin Diesel, with John Stamos's coloring and wicked smile.
This is all very well, but hero's like the famed legends of old, need a weakness, something which shows their humanity, their vulnerability. Dav has that. Along with the ability to make pots and pots of money too.
Now the woman he loves, Carrie McCray, is pretty sharp herself. She's an entrepreneur, a gallery owner, and a sharp enough businesswoman to dig out of the financial hole (and PR nightmare) her late husband left her with in Deadly Little Secrets. Dav's had a thing for her for years, unrequited, of course, since she was married.
Now, as Deadly Little Lies comes to the shelves, Carrie is finally out from under the cloud her late-husband left, and free to make some new decisions.
Pretty cool, right?
Yep, as long as you don't get crosswise of Dav's enemies. Bwahahha!
So all this fun with Greeks, and Greece was like going back in my own personal history. I got to re-learn some long-forgotten words in Greek, as well as some new curse-words as well. Writing Dav was an absolute blast.
You see, it turns out one of my current BFF's is also Greek. You'll see that she's credited in the front of both Deadly Little Secrets and Deadly Little Lies, for her help.
Y'know, it must be some kind of homing beacon, or longing in my soul, because in every stage of my life, I've had a friend who was Greek. I like that.
Gus Portokalos, from My Big Fat Greek wedding would, I'm sure, attribute it to some long forgotten Greek Ancestor.
He'd probably also figure out some way that my name was a declension of a Greek noun, or related to a Greek word in some way.
Gus was right though. We owe a LOT to the Greeks. Warfare, sure, but art and music and democracy, a lot of broad-based theology, international commerce, olive oil, pine nuts, and marathons.
Hey, they gave us the Olympics; a chance every four years to oogle really, really fit, good looking people (men and women) wearing spandex. What's not to love?
Of course in ancient days they would have run that marathon nekkid, but now...you know, global warming, skin cancer...they go for spandex.
Not complaining. Really. I'm not. The oogling's still pretty good.
Every where you look, from architecture to fashion's strappy sandals and fold-filled-dresses, to the laurel leaves and torches on most of our money (in the USA), the Greeks have put their mark on even our distant-in-time-culture. Are you a Sorority sister? Fraternity guy? You're a Greek then, right? It's allll over us. Pretty darn cool.
Now you know the "secret" behind my darling Dav. He was the grown up version of my crush on the (probably long-since-gone-bald) gorgeous Anthony.
He's the technicolor fantasy version, complete with tuxedo and wicked, gleaming white smile.
One of the joys of being a writer is, I can bring him to life as hot and virile and freshly minted as that long ago crush.
See? Part of me still wants to be Greek.
I even had a gyro for lunch too.
So what about you? Is there a culture other than your own that you really, really love?
I have a friend that wanted to be Jewish because he thought the traditions were so incredibly cool and solid.
And in Eva Ibbottson's wonderful Countess Below Stairs (Remember that bit, Anna C?) one of the characters, the delightful Honorable Olive, wanted desperately to be a Russian.
Is there a country that calls to you, as if you once lived there, or might one day go and feel "at home"?
Joanie, I think you said you felt this way about Ireland when you went there, and I know my friend who's barely a 10th Irish felt so much that way when she stepped on Irish soil that she nearly didn't leave!
Or maybe the wildness of the Steppes calls to you, or the tropical forests of the Congo, or the mountains of Peru.
I'm not talking about the day-to-day living there, or the inconvenience of living in a different land, I'm wondering what culture and tradition calls to your soul.
Care to share?
(And DeDe P. if you're out there somewhere, thanks for being my friend. Grins.)