Mad Greeks, Bonging Clocks, Grapes & Molten LeadSunday, January 02, 2011
|Photo by Amy Chin|
Rosemary and I have avoided New Year ’s Eve parties like the plague. One of the last ones we ever attended was a bash at Gary Taylor’s Rock Room where Roy Forbes (formerly known as Bim) sang out:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?
while reading the lyrics from a piece of torn paper!
Then, since Rosemary and I were up front we were sprayed by Forbes with Mëoet Chandon (the best!). Three Polish sailors came up to me and congratulated me for looking like Roman Polanski.
For me the idea of embracing someone I don’t know to wish them a happy new year’s is anathema, because it is uncomfortable. I make the exception with Polish sailors who for some three years after our first meeting sent me Christmas cards addressed to Alex (Roman) Watehouse-Hayward (Polanski).
Rosemary and I remember New Year’s past in Veracruz, Mexico at my mother’s. All the docked ships and those waiting to be berthed would sound their sirens and horns. We also remember another, 1968, in Mexico City. We had just been married and we were invited to the house of my friend Raúl Guerrero Montemayor. He had a friend, a Hungarian countess, Andrea Csáky who had escaped the Communist regime of her Hungary with only a few carpets and the man who was to be her husband. The countess had brought a box of lead soldiers and a silver spoon. Raul had a fireplace. She held the spoon in the fire with bits of lead in it. She told us this was German custom called bleigießen which literally means “lead pouring.” When the lead melted she poured it quickly into a bowl of water. The water immediately cooled the lead into pieces, no two of which were alike.
She retrieved the cooled lead pieces from the water for inspection. Sometimes she held the pieces up to a light to see if the shadow helped determine what shape the lead piece was. Whatever shape the lead was she told us it (one melting per person) helped predict what would happen to us in the coming year.
Since then Rosemary and I have quietly removed ourselves from any celebration of the New Year and we opt for staying in bed. There is one custom that persists which Rosemary learned from my mother. It is a Spanish custom. She buys grapes on the morning of New Year’s Eve. The idea is to eat twelve grapes, one for each bonging of our old French mantle clock. If the grapes are sweet (and they always are as Rosemary is an expert grape picker!) we will have 12 pleasant months in the coming year.
It was sometime around 2pm on the 31st that our friend Paul Leisz suggested that we all (including his partner Amy Chin) go for early dinner at the Mad Greek Restaurant on Westminster Highway and close to Minoru Blvd in Richmond. We found the name of the restaurant odd and Rosemary knows I detest retsina and calamari. I am so ignorant of Greek food that I call tzatziki, Suzuki sauce which I do tolerate. In years past (the 80s) when Orestes was the king of Greek restaurants in Vancouver I was commanded to attend Vancouver Magazine Christmas parties or such similar functions in either an Orestes on West Broadway or the one on Pacific Avenue. Both restaurants featured belly dancers which I loathe. I have a particular distaste for the little finger bells that these dancer play.
Rosemary and I showed up at the Mad Greek Restaurant (owned by a Greek Mr Liapis and his Chinese wife) with some concerns. We sat down with Paul and Amy. The restaurant is the largest Greek establishment in Richmond and it was full. It seemed odd to be in such an establishment and yet be in Richmond. We had been informed that we had to vacate the premises by 8:30 as the restaurant then would host a special new year’s celebration (belly dancers, perhaps? Dish throwing, perhaps?) This suited me fine as I wanted to be home early enough to see the New Year from the confines of my comfortable bed.
Our waitress had a jet black hair and was a dead ringer for that famous sultry Greek ruler of Egypt who might have had an affinity for snakes. I asked her (our waitress) if she feared snakes. She did not. She was pleasant, talkative and almost made me forget I was in a Greek restaurant even if I knew that she was, an authentic Greek. That she spoke perfect Spanish (a Master’s from UBC) made it all that much more pleasant for me. I asked her what Kotosoupa Avgolemono was. This was an item in the limited menu of the day (I was not going to be saved by being able to order pizza!). She told me it was Greek chicken soup. It was delicious. Rosemary and I shared one. We all had some sort of souvlaki (I ordered chicken and Rosemary lamb) and stuck to plain water and opted out of Greek gasoline wine.
|The Liapis Family (aka The Mad Greeks)|
The experience, I must admit, was most pleasant. The company was great, the food just right. When I asked our waitress if I could order some Turkish coffee she told me that not only did they not have it, they did not have the Greek version (Greek coffee, perhaps?). I asked her if we could throw our plates at a corner. She told us this quaint Greek custom had been banned by the Richmond authorities. It seems some musician of a new year’s celebration past had been injured by a flying dish fragment.
We left for home feeling comfortable inside and knowing that our friend Paul and Amy had made this New Year’s Eve celebration a success. And I must admit, too that Amy can take some darn mean good photos as this one here proves.
Rosemary did bring a plastic bag with grapes. We counted out 12 for each one of us and even though there was no bonging clock (it was 8:15) we rapidly consumed them for good luck in this year of 2011.