The Real Greece

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They say it’s impossible to get bored in Mykonos, one of the world’s great crossroads, but I did. The constant hubbub of cafes and discos had finally worn me out. I wanted to see the real Greece. I wanted to look behind the stage prepared for tourists like me. I didn’t want to be just another sunburned fun-seeker collecting hangovers and notches on a bedpost. I wanted to slow down and feel my short existence in an ancient place. I didn’t know if I would ever return. I wanted a real moment or two to stand out above the typical version of Greece most travelers experience.

So one night I picked a direction and started walking, away from the noise, into the interior. The streets of Mykonos, like many Greek villages, have no pattern. They were built this way intentionally to confuse invading pirates and enemy armies. The village of Thira on the island of Santorini is probably the best example of this.

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The villagers would hide in doorways and windows with clubs and knives and slaughter the disoriented attackers as they passed. Now the labyrinthine streets confuse only tourists. After a half hour of wandering, I was lost but didn’t care. I was nervous but at least I felt alive again, out of the tepid bath of familiarity.

It was quiet for a long time as I passed apartments and the occasional shuttered cafe, then I started to hear music. I walked toward it. The sound of bouzouki’s and mandolins became clearer but not the source, until I came to a sunken doorway. Nobody was outside. I touched the handle. I wasn’t sure if it was a private house or a public bar. “I didn’t travel thousands of miles to be timid,” I thought. “What’s the worst that can happen? I’ll get thrown out.”

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I opened the door and saw a very small room, but it was a bar and cafe. I walked in and sat at the nearest table.

The room was filled with the mingled aromas of cigarette smoke, retsina wine, lamb and duck. Five men played vigorously and twenty or so others sang and clapped. A few took notice of me but most were too enraptured by the music to care about the outsider in their midst. A man I would later come to know as the owner walked to my table, looked at me very seriously, and waited for me to order. Wanting to earn the space I was using, I ordered a glass of retsina. He walked away, came back with a glass and, in a somber tone, said, “Welcome. Enjoy.” I had not yet earned his trust.

I watched and listened for an hour as the men did what they had clearly done for decades. They were masters of their instruments but most probably had never signed a recording contract.

Separated by language, the key that unlocks everything, I was unable to communicate with them, but the great gift and joy of that night, aside from the music, were the subtle looks and smiles the musicians and locals occasionally gave me. The bar owner refilled my glass without keeping track and became more friendly as time passed and he saw how much I was enjoying hearing his friends play.

 

I wish now that I would have snuck a photo or two but I didn’t take a single photo of the musicians for the same reason I started walking away from the crowd earlier – I was tired of feeling like a gawking tourist. I wanted something personal, sacred, real.

I stayed until they all went home, and shook hands with many of them as I was leaving. A few even hugged me, perhaps because they knew I didn’t find their secret hideaway to take photos of them and brag to friends back home. They knew I didn’t want to make an exhibit of them on some apartment wall. I’ve never even written about that night until now, twenty years later. They accepted me because they knew I was there to find the heart of Greece, and I did. And as usual, it was delivered to me by the two greatest forces that ever brought people of different cultures together – music and kindness.

 

New Publishing

Please look for my story He Wouldn’t Hurt a Fly in this book in all major booksellers on and offline in early August. This will be my 16th story in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. I’m always proud to contribute to their wholesome and inspirational books! Royalties from this book go to the American-Human Society!

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New Book Release: Chicken Soup for the Soul – The Spirit of America

Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America

My story “The Sixty-Year Old Little Girl” is in this new book – Chicken Soup for the Soul book – The Spirit of America, available now at Walmart, Barnes and Noble and online.

I have contributed to eleven Chicken Soup for the Soul titles now and am always proud to do so because of the positivity, inspiration and light they bring to a world that sometimes seems to grow more negative every day. This election is a perfect example. It’s not so much about the politicians. They’ve always been ruthless. What disturbs me more is the Americans becoming violent with each other for having differences of opinion rather than discussing it, even if that means yelling at each other. So at this time more than any other, I’m proud to be part of something that can help bring Americans together. Here is the official press release from Chicken Soup for the Soul headquarters:

This book focuses on what unites us, not what divides us. When Chicken Soup for the Soul’s author, editor-in-chief and publisher Amy Newmark decided to collect stories for a book about the spirit of America more than a year ago, she never anticipated how much we, as a nation, would need this book. “I knew that we would need an antidote to all the negativity that always arises during a presidential election year, but I had no idea it would get this bad,” she said. “We recognize there are significant problems that need to be addressed, but we do live in a wonderful country. We can forget that sometimes amid all the emotions of the election process. 

Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America is our chicken soup for our fellow Americans—a reminder of why we are all so passionate about what we believe is best for our country. I hope this collection of 101 stories about everything American will help to unite us, not divide us.”

Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America takes us on a journey across our beautiful nation, meeting our veterans, active service members and their families; revisiting the patriotism and unity of 9/11; showing us the ingenuity and positive attitude that we’re known for; displaying the diversity of our geography and our people; relating stories about our favorite American traditions; and introducing us to proud new citizens who remind us how lucky we are to live here—with our freedom to advance, to move, and to express ourselves. There’s even a whole chapter on the American flag, with inspiring stories about how much the red, white and blue means to us, right in time for Flag Day on June 14th.

“As we do often, we are using this book to raise money for a worthy cause – and one that is very relevant to its subject matter – the Bob Woodruff Foundation and its Stand Up for Heroes fundraising program,” said William J. Rouhana, Jr., chief executive officer of Chicken Soup for the Soul. “This is the second time that we have earmarked royalties from one of our books to raise funds for the Bob Woodruff Foundation to support their work with post–9/11 injured service members, veterans and their families.”

The book’s foreword writer Lee Woodruff, who is married to broadcaster Bob Woodruff, says, “The people you meet in these pages, and the tales they tell, will remind you why we are the most fortunate people in the world—Americans.” She talks about her particular passion—the military—in the foreword. After her husband was wounded while embedded as a reporter with the Army in Iraq, Lee saw our military at its best, saving her husband’s life. And she and Bob have given back in a major way, founding the Bob Woodruff Foundation to support programs that provide health and social services for veterans.

ABOUT CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL
Chicken Soup for the Soul, the world’s favorite and most recognized storyteller, publishes the famous Chicken Soup for the Soulbook series. With well over 100 million books sold to date in the U.S. and Canada alone, more than 250 titles, and translations into more than 40 languages, “chicken soup for the soul” is one of the world’s best-known phrases and is regularly referenced in pop culture. Today, 23 years after it first began sharing happiness, inspiration and hope through its books, this socially conscious company continues to publish a new title a month, but has also evolved beyond the bookstore with super premium pet food, television shows and movies, and a variety of other digital content and licensed products, all inspired by stories, as it continues “changing the world one story at a time®.”

To receive a review copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America or to request an interview, please contact Tanya Taylor Miciak at 615.254.9389 or tanya@triple7pr.com

CONTACT: Tanya Taylor Miciak 615.254.9389