My sister wanted to know about what soï we had in Arta, so begin the Megillah

17 Dec

Your gonna have to guess whether I’m addressing my sister, who this was first intended for, including with references to previous correspondence.

Arta: My initial answer to my sister “[Our] Papou Alexandros’ oldest sister, older than him, and then four more girls, married a Manopoulos and moved to Arta.  From them came the whole Artino clan, including Polyxene who put you and your friend, Diana Biancchi up in 1972 in Corfu.”

Addendum to Arta pic: the little boy in the middle was blown up by a grenade right in the middle of the plateia in Pesta.  This was Theia Tsivoula’s and Gianni Melas’ (the man on Tsivoulas’ upper right.) son, the oldest I believe.

(The tall girl on the left is Theia Sevaste, the mother of Raki and Gregori and Taki and Polyxene in Corfu, so the little girl seated beneath her was kiled in German bombing of Arta in 1941.)

After the communists burned the house in 1943, Mela apparently forced his wife to go to into the ruins, cause it was the house she grew up in and she’d know her way around AND where her father Konstantino and brother Alexandros may have hidden the gold, cause they both operated the bakeries in Bucharest in then autonomous Wallachia, which Phanariotes and Greeks generally had been sucking the blood out of for more than two centuries before 1821.  So he apparently forced her to help him dig up the gold that people believed Papou Alexandros and GREAT Papou Konsantinos had stashed/hoarded there, the gold made from two generations of owning bakeries in Bucharest.

Soon after Gianne Mela, a shepherd and mule train guide, started buying up properties outta nowhere in Pesta and rumor had it in Jianenna as well but who knows what was happening in a large metropolis like Jiannena that was then 2 days away by mule. Then the little boy in the picture was blown up by the apparently playing with an unused grenade and Theia Tsivoula ran out to the plateia screaming and howling and scratching the earth and clutching the bloodied earth and holding the boy’s smashed apart body parts and screaming at Gianne: “Εσύ μ’έκαψες!  Εσύ Εσύ!!!  Το παιδί μααααααααςςςςς!!!! Μας έκαψες!!!!!”  And since the whole village was watching, the rumor that Tsivoula and Gianne HAD stolen the money started to enter as truth into the village canon. 

You must remember Theia Tsivoula at least, though Gianne was alive but maybe you don’t remember him that much.  (Tsivoula is Paraskeue in case you were wondering.)  After the Civil War ended in 49, they bought up almost all the bostania by the lake in Jiannena (kitchen gardens, like allotments in English cities, from Arabic Al-Bustan (remember one of the first Arab places in Manhattan in the 70s, near daddy’s store on 3rd Avenue and like 52nd Street that was called that and I think is still there).   They built big stone houses with ample gardens for themselves and their other children, who were all girls so there was now no dowry problems of what to give prospective grooms with all these properties or houses.  Then in the 70s the bostania (you remember them?) were zoned for building and are now just a whole lakeside neighborhood in Jiannena with the usual 6 or 8 apartment, 3 or 4 story, ugly concrete buildings.  That whole branch of the Melas must be, if not fabulously wealthy, then extremely so for regional standards.  This is the neighborhood today 👇.  You must recognize something 👇.  Ask me what you want?

So that’s the lineage of how our Great-grandfather Constantino’s money went into this big new real estate development in Jiannena.  It must’ve been quite an amount originally because then Papou Constantino bought the hill in Pesta that the house stood/stands on (below) from the Muslim Ağa who owned it and who used to collect his due from the Christian sharecroppers of the region.

I don’t know if Papou continued to demand a share from his own Christian sharecroppers, or if Ottoman law at the time would allow a non-Muslim to do that, even to non-Muslims.  But from stories of what a miserly, penny-pinching, gruff Epirote he was, I’m sure he didn’t let them off their obligations.

Where the original seed money came from that started this chain of events, I dunno.  Had Constantino made some in Romania already?  Could they have just saved enough from pastoral life, sheep, etc. to fund the first trip to Bucharest.  Anyway, here’s an old blog post on Istanbul Greek pogrom of 1955 where I mention in a footnote the concept of the Devil or Genius race: US! not the U.S. Us/Greeks/Romans.

My footnote to my post on Vryonis book:

* The Greek Daemon, “daemon” in the Roman sense of the word of animating genius — “To daimonio tes fyles” — is the idea that Greeks are resourceful enough to prosper anywhere and under any conditions — Patrick Leigh Fermor’s belief in their ability to “spin gold out of air” — and the repeated tragic setbacks and almost immediate comeback of the Greek community of İstanbul after nearly every catastrophe to befall it in the twentieth century tempts one to believe in its truth.  Thus, one of the most poignant elements in the Constantinopolitan story is their almost masochistic refusal to leave — what it took to finally make the vast majority abandon the city they loved so much was just too overwhelming in the end however.”

So that’s the story, what we know at leastI don’t know how Taki Mela is related to Gianne Mela–it’s one of the three or four most common last names in my mom’s village Pesta–but Taki is a wonderful man as is his wife Anthoula, who gives lie to all the nasty Epirotiko condescension about people and especially women from the Peloponnese.  She outshines everyone now, all the remaining middle-age women left in the village, whether it be through her pitta/börek or non-yeast lokma (tiganites) or her other delicious cooking.  She even uses the region’s traditional butter where appropriate though she’s from famous olive-oil producing region of Achaea.  (Yes, like those Achaeans.)  So there.  And their home is wonderful and comfortable with thick flokates and and an always-burning fire.

This may all be lies or all be truth.  жили да были.  Y vivieron felices y comieron partridges or quail or something.  Και ζήσανε oi Μελλαίοι ΠΑΡΑ ΠΟΛΥ ΚΑΛΑ κι εμείς οι άλλοι έτσι κι έτσι.


“Turcos” mostly Arab Levantine Christians in LA. Earlier, ran into these guys waiting for another wedding to start…

11 Dec

The groom’s buddies (this is another wedding I just stumbled on not the one I just attended tonight) outside church of San Pedro Claver in old city Cartagena. “Turcos” meaning Levantine Arab in South America, Maronites, the bride’s Colombian Catholic so it’s an easy step from one to the other,

Asked them where Rum “Turcos” go to church in Cartagena, they said they didn’t know, but that there IS an Arab-language Orthodox church in Barranaquilla. Would love to know more about these communities! Does anyone know a good monograph? Arabs in Latin America? Christian Arabs in LA?

Got some friendly Twitter responses below:


There are some interesting chapters in this book

If my memory serves me right, there are some theses on the ‘Turcos’ of Latin America

Arab and Jewish Immigrants in Latin America

Colombian women

11 Dec

You don’t want to believe it because it sounds like a cliché or exaggeration (and you don’t want to say it too much because Colombians, men and women, are already so full of themselves) but Colombia really has some of the most spectacular women on the planet. And ⁦@hannibulk, I wonder if some of it is Amazigh. Below left my sis-in-law Johanna and on right bride at tonight’s wedding, Maria from Medellín. For those not in the know, Amazigh is Berber/North African.

@hannibulk can you find any comparable Tunisian, Algerian, Moroccan female types?

Guys, follow@hannibulk on Twitter for Berber Central info and anything else on MENA Mediterranean history you could ever think of. Also, major Carthage and Phoenician history geek. And potential unit.

This has to be one of the most religiously, socially, culturally and ethically damning maps I’ve ever seen

9 Dec

And the inevitable addendum: those from the northwest quadrant who have slightly larger whatever the trio of things the men were looking for in The Wizard of Oz get inevitably pulled to the southeast, and vice versa.

New Kitchen Wall Art: Belgrade, Gavrilo Princip, Vladimir Mayakovsy

6 Dec

Map of Belgrade, 20th century but not exactly sure (This is for P and S and M and all Dorćol buddies and kafana-dwellers):


GAVRILO PRINCIP, Serbian “revolutionary” or really short, skiny, poor kid from Herzegovina, who shot Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 and supposedly started WWI, though that’s just anti-Serbian prop on part of Western powers who had all been itching…


…for a heroic, “cleansing”, “purifying” war for decades. See the final chapter of Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain for a gut punch on wasted lives like Kastorp’s and Princip’s and how the war ended up for them.

VLADIMIR MAYAKOVSKY, great hero of mine; though I don’t understand or particularly like his poetry, he’s a model for me of a man’s life well-lived, expansive, Jupiterian, Leonine in a funky, happening Moscow, loving with all his heart and guts and knowing when to check out…


…and even fucking his suicide up for maximum and lengthy agony. Based. His French: “All women are clingy and presumptuous. All men are worthless.” (Correct translation?)

My response to the Holy Kingdom of Croatia…

6 Dec

It was actually really convenient all along, my response to the Holy Kingdom of Croatia would have been these two images 👇, whether they won or lost:

No I’m not joking or kidding or exaggerating: when the world finally calls Croats on their shit they way it gangs up on Serbs given any chance, then I’ll start joking or kidding or exaggerating. 👇

“I LOST my dashBOARD in the kaFAAAANA, and it was black as my soul and as my very HEAAAAART… zašto da živim za tebe sad sam, senka iz prošlosti sto uzalud te moli.”

6 Dec

“Interesting response to this poll. People hate Instagram…

6 Dec

“Interesting response to this poll. People hate Instagram— and rightly so because it’s a dying app. But there is currently no other place that can host a gallery of original photos that’s better than it. I likely will make one anyway.”

Nicholas Bakos (aka Nick Νίκο Hикола Коля)


I hate being dicked round and round and round and round on this issue of what social media is best for what and the stupidity and snobbery that accrues around it.

And email dates you and Facebook dates you and NOBODY blogs anymore and Instagram dates you and find me on Whatsapp because I don’t EVER check my email anymore and of course I NEVER answer my phone, and no, can we just stick to Whatsapp, and no, can we just stick to SMS and…

…Βρε άιντε πηδηχθήτε όλοι σας ve haydi siktir y vayan todos a la verga и идите на хуй. And now that it’s sooooo easy to communicate I have to leave 5 different kinds of notification to get in touch with anybody while golums like Zuckerberg and Musk are making billions…

…over playing into your pathetic snobbery as they just make your life more confusing and time-consuming.

And there I just put that on my IG and my blog and Twitter and an email so that I can be an equal opportunity Savonarola to all you vain, narcissistic pricks and to myself.

Varvara St. Barbara’s Day

4 Dec

Today is the feat of St. Barbara on the Gregorian (New) Calendar. In Lebanon, at least, if not the rest of the Levant, people make an ashura-like pudding called Varvara…


…which, like Asure in Turkey is distributed to neighbors and especially the poor. See recipe here:

Varvara (wheat berry pudding)

It’s a dessert that has religious roots, it is made on the eve of St. Barbara and offered to the neighbours for the good health of the children of the house but also in honour to the saint that it is…

It’s obviously related to Greek-Serbian-Russian koljiva, the wheat berries or other seeds are offerings to the dead, the ancestors, a right and good offering since seeds bring life and the dead need that.

In Greek and Slavic Orthodox countries it’s often made during Lent, because it’s vegan and suits Lenten diet suggestions. Muslims make it all year round because of that moving all round the year calendar they have that no one has ever been able to explain to me.

But I don’t know why Levantine Christians make it on St. Barbara’s day because if she has any connotations of memorializing the dead I wouldn’t know what they are.

So honor your dead and eat your pudding, but first eat your meat, because “How can you have pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?!”

Pink Floyd – another brick in the wall

Patagonia, me, L and P

4 Dec

Always put the Patagonia video on my gym’s treadmill because the fantasy of two of my favorite Twitter crushes running bodyguards on either side really motivates me. Honestly, I could lead running tour of Patagonia myself at this point.

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