Andreas Economakis

"man and ball" (photo by Andreas Economakis - ©2011)

“Size Matters”

by Andreas Economakis

Part 2 (click here for Part 1 of “Size Matters,” or visit the 3/14/11 issue of AIOTB)

I hobbled toward my bike, fishing the keys out of my jacket pocket.  One look at the hard saddle and I knew that I was in for one hell of a ride.  I gingerly cranked the ignition lever, cringing in pain and seriously considering pulling off my tight jeans despite the cold.  The ride into Athens was going to be a journey straight into the Beelzebub’s fiery inferno.  Maybe the winter wind chill factor would relieve my strained boys, kind of like putting them on ice.  After a few excruciating cranks, my pecker almost exploding in agony, my motorcycle started doing its classic boxer jiggle back and forth. I clambered on board, horror sketched on my pasty face.  I was surely going to rupture something down there.  The police report would read something like: “Anemic looking man found next to a gigantic detached penis in gruesome highway motorcycle accident.  Witnesses report that the penis was the apparent driver of the cycle.”  My Ramburglar was beginning to feel larger than the rest of me.  I was now officially becoming an appendage to my penis, rather than the other way around.  Was I the monkey on my penis’ back? READ MORE

Andreas Economakis

“Size Matters”

by Andreas Economakis

Part 1

The pain started sometime around noon, a little before our 45-minute lunch break. The slight tingling I’d been feeling in my stomach suddenly became an intense and nauseating throbbing in the groin area. It felt as if a vindictive Darth Vader was reaching down my throat with his arm, slapping my stomach out of the way for good measure and then grabbing my boys with an iron fist, trying to squeeze the life out of them. I stagger-sat on one of the suicide-car pillars in front of the El Venizelos Airport main terminal for some relief but sprang quickly to my feet. Sitting only made matters worse. I could not shake the intense pain or my increasing distress. Cold sweat trickled down my back and I swallowed stale spit. READ MORE

Andreas Economakis

Yiayia and Boy George (photo by Andreas Economakis)

“Perfect Makeup”

by Andreas Economakis

My grandmother Anastasia, or yiayia as I called her, must have studied Zen. She could spend hours seated motionless in her jewelry store in the Nile Hilton, a geriatric Greek sphinx staring blankly ahead. Overwhelmed by the utter tranquility in her shop, I would escape as often as I could whenever I visited her in the summers, wandering around the dusty and chaotic streets of Cairo for as long as I could stand. I would beat a hasty retreat to the cool sanctuary of the air-conditioned Hilton, with its refreshing “Asir Lemoon” lemonades and overwhelmed pink tourists, only when my feet could carry me no longer through the blazing Saharan heat and pungent city smells.

Cairo has a peculiar odor. Anyone who’s ever visited this ancient bustling city of 17 million or so souls will attest to this. You become aware of the city’s pungency from the very moment the airplane doors crack open on the sizzling tarmac of Cairo International Airport. I’m not a smell specialist, but if you put me in a headlock I guess I’d equate the city’s smells to a batch of ripe tropical fruit fermenting in old petrol smog. The Hilton was a natural haven from all this, a controlled oasis of sorts. Like any desert wanderer, I would invariably end up at the oasis when on the verge of heat stroke. In fact, I think the Hilton’s café was named The Oasis, if my memory serves me right.

There was a bookstore next to my grandmother’s shop and I started buying and feverishly reading anything I could lay my hands on. I would sit in this red and white vinyl chair behind the spotless glass of the jewelry store’s front door for hours, my head buried in Hemingway and Kazantzakis and London and Marquez. Occasionally, I would peak out at the crowds of sweaty tourists that drifted by, chuckling to myself, knowing full well what state the poor sods were in. I’ve never been good at playing salesman and I generally ignored my grandmother’s pleas to help with the odd customers who walked in, preferring my role as family bookworm. My grandmother would yell at me for reading so much, telling me that it was bad for me.

One day, I looked up into the Hilton lobby and saw Boy George walk by. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There he was, in his black robe, jewels, long hair, bangles, make up and signature bowler hat. “Dirty, filthy hippie!” my grandmother blared out, shifting uncomfortably her seat. “I bet he sleeps with dogs!” she added. I stared at my grandmother with wide eyes, not so much surprised at her comment but at the fact that she had moved in her seat. I explained that he was a famous musician, a very rich, dirty filthy hippie. “Really?” she asked all bright-eyed and bushy tailed. My grandmother might have been conservative, but a fool she was not. Visibly excited, she asked me to bring him into the store so she could meet him.

I ran out into the lobby and caught up with Boy right before he went into The Oasis. “You’re Boy George!” I said, eyelashes batting up and down over the big stupid grin that was plastered all over my face. Boy stopped and turned toward me, smiling. A pleasant smell overtook my nostrils. 150 degrees outside but the man smelled like a bouquet of freshly cut flowers. I told him that my grandmother wanted to meet him and pointed to our shop. He courteously followed me in and I made the introductions. Boy’s presence seemed to overwhelm my grandmother. It was as if an alien from planet Zork had stepped into her inner sanctuary. She totally forgot that she wanted to sell him some jewels. The only thing she could think of to say to Boy was that his make-up was perfect. Her own was always too heavy, gooped on as if with a builder’s spatula.

Perhaps feeling awkward at all the silence, Boy smiled and excused himself. My grandmother sprang back to life and asked me to ask him if I could take a photo of the two of them together. Boy said of course and I trained my pocket Hanimex on them, snapping what was to be my first “celebrity” photograph. Boy kissed my breathless grandmother on the cheek and exited with his invisible bouquet of sweet flowers. I ran up to Boy in the lobby to thank him. Right then another member of Culture Club walked up and looked at me with a mischievous look. Then Boy asked me if I wanted to join him and the band for a drink up in his room. They all giggled flirtatiously. I kindly declined and wandered back to my grandmother’s store as Boy and the band headed to the elevators.

“A nice man,” my grandmother said, “even though he dresses and smells like a girl.”

“Yeah,” I replied, my eyes trained on a white poodle that was being led through the lobby toward the elevators by a tiny bellhop in a silly outfit. The bellhop and the poodle followed a giggling Boy and the band into the elevator.

“But you can’t judge a book by its cover,” I added, just as the elevator’s doors closed with a ding.

–Andreas Economakis

This piece is part of a collection of stories on blindness entitled: The Blindness of Life.

Copyright © 2011, Andreas Economakis. All rights reserved.

For more stories by Andreas Economakis click on the author’s name below.

Andreas Economakis

Paul Simonon and Joe Strummer (Rock in Athens, July 27, 1985)

“Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?”

by Andreas Economakis

July 27, 1985. Day 2 of the big Rock in Athens concert. S. and I squeeze our way through the excited crowd and sit down on the white marble seats. We look around the open-air Kallimarmaro Stadium, home to the 1896 Olympics. The Clash are playing tonight and the place is packed to the gills. I mention to S. that I finished the marathon in this stadium when I was twelve years old. I remember being so very upset that the local newspaper misspelled my last name in the article the next day. My mom, feeling bad, whited-out the mistake and carefully wrote in my name. It was nice of her but it didn’t take the bitterness away.

I pull out a can of smuggled Amstel beer and crack it open. I hand the can to S. and she takes a swing. She hands the can back to me, her eyes smiling, flirting. Things are finally warming up between us. The mythical woman on the pedestal is finally becoming human, approachable. I’m so infatuated with her.

The lights dim. The crowd starts whistling in anticipation. Suddenly, S. takes my hand in hers. My heart skips a beat. My mind travels to the night before. There we are, seated in the same marble seats, but things are so very different. No smiling, flirting eyes, no heart-skipping looks or touches. Almost like an anti-climax, Boy George of Culture Club steps on stage. His hair is gelled high over an overly made-up face, the eyeliner around his glazed eyes giving him an almost macabre look. He’s wearing a strange and not too flattering green training outfit with shiny reflector strips and he’s sweating buckets in the hot Athenian air. Like gasoline tossed on fire, the crowd up front, mostly punks, start heckling and jeering. Before long they start throwing pebbles and water bottles at Boy George. He leaves the stage in a fit of disappointment. After several rollicking minutes of uncertainty, an announcer comes on stage and chides the crowd. A few more awkward minutes pass by and Boy George steps back on stage, inflamed eyes scanning with crowd nervously. He walks up to the microphone, takes a deep breath, and starts singing “Do you really want to hurt me?” The crowd roars “YES!!!” in unison and pelts him with more pebbles and bottles and insults. Remarkably, Boy braves his way through the song, hips dancing and swaying melifluously around the flying detritus and hurled invectives. When the song ends and the mayhem and impending carnage becomes fully apparent, Culture Club decides to flee the stage. My last image of Boy is a frightened flurry of green fabric and black face make-up, the stage’s probing spotlights making him look a like a fugitive zombie from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Outside the stadium, petrol smoke, black as night, billows up to the darkening orange-blue sky. Word gets around that punks outside the stadium have set fire to Boy’s tour-bus. In reality, several concert crashers have set a car on fire as they are upset at being kept out of the stadium by a beefed-up police force. The stadium is rolling in confusion and smoke, everyone unsure if the concert’s going to be cancelled.

The lights dim and then, suddenly, Joe Strummer walks on stage. Back to today. The crowd explodes in applause. A hero’s welcome. “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” he bellows. “STAY!!!” the Greek crowd roars. I swear, I’m so happy to see Joe that tears well up in my eyes. A smiling S. turns toward me and kisses me on the lips. Joe finishes the song and dives into the crowd. He’s hoisted up, swirled around over people’s heads and thrown back on stage. He grabs the mic for the next song. That night S. and I become boyfriend and girlfriend. I owe it all to the Clash. Thank you, Joe Strummer. Thank you.

–Andreas Economakis

This piece is part of a collection of stories on blindness entitled: The Blindness of Life.

Copyright © 2010, Andreas Economakis. All rights reserved.

For more stories by Andreas Economakis click on the author’s name below.

Andreas Economakis

The author and his p-spot in second grade

The P-Spot

by Andreas Economakis

When I was a young boy I was fascinated by the Dictator of Greece and his cadre of austere military men. What I think impressed me the most was the Dictator’s black bulletproof limousine and the fact that the cops would stop all the traffic so that his convoy could roll through the lights without stopping. In a city that was already starting to show the signs of traffic gridlock like most cities today, I reckoned that the ability to cruise through red lights uninterrupted was the equivalent of absolute power. One time I even managed to see the Dictator’s shiny balding head as he sat in the back seat of the limousine. He seemed to be both smiling and angry at the same time. Maybe he was smirking at all us hapless motorists who had to wait for him to go by. I didn’t know enough back then to question the politics of the whole situation. I was blinded by all the guns and uniforms and cops and pomp and circumstance.

During the time of the US-backed military dictatorship or junta (1967-1974), my family occasionally used to eat at a restaurant called Anna’s on the corner of Kifissias and Katehaki avenues, across from the old Luna Park. I loved that restaurant for a myriad of reasons. First of all, they served steamed snails in a red sauce. Second, it was across from the Luna Park. After dinner, while my mother and father argued or drank or sat silently avoiding each other’s eyes, my brothers and I would go over to the Luna Park and play bumper cars and shoot balloons and race go carts. You could even win bottles of booze from the games, something which later became a fun way to score cheap liquor with my stepbrother Lee. But what was most cool about Anna’s was that the Dictator’s second-in-command would occasionally eat there, plain-clothes police escort always occupying the nearby tables. This man also had a shiny bald head, though his was clean shaven like Mussolini’s infamous pate. He always looked angry in his double-breasted suits. I tried to imagine what kind of cool guns he and his police escort carried under their jackets.

Though my dad and my friends all quietly intimated that the dictatorship was bad and doomed, I liked looking at those severe men in their snappy uniforms and at the symmetrical military parades they staged several times a year. And, of course, I loved being stopped at the traffic lights, hopefully first in line, where I could see the black cars and their police escorts whiz by unobstructed. What could possibly be wrong with these cool-looking people in their uniforms? I mean, everything was fine at home, right? We had food and shelter and pets and whatnot. Why was everyone complaining? Life seemed to roll on normally every day and, barring a few small hassles, I was happy. Okay, it was annoying that we had to go to church every morning before school (by Dictator’s decree), to stand for an exhausting hour while mysterious bearded men in black robes and tall hats droned on and on in an indecipherable language. But that was made up for by the cool censorship stamps on the back of every school book. Each stamp displayed an armed soldier standing in front of a flaming eagle, the Dictator’s sacred flaming phoenix. Rumor had it that if you removed the stamp you would be sent to jail instantly. My friends and I toyed with the stamp constantly, sometimes removing it and glueing it back on with spit. We imagined armed men bursting into our classroom and hauling us off kicking and screaming to the torture chambers. We were such rebels. No armed men ever came to haul us off of course, not for the stamps nor for us substituting dirty words in for the real ones when we sang the national anthem in the school yard every morning. So what was wrong with the Dictatorship? My young eyes simply could not see what the fuss was all about. Then one day it all became clear to me.

It was Apokries (Greek Halloween) and I was a bit upset because I didn’t have a costume to wear to school. I knew my friends would all dress up as Zorros and pirates and crusaders and cowboys and fairytale princes. Somehow or other my parents had forgotten to get me a costume. At the last minute at home, before my brothers and I had to go meet the school bus, my middle brother came up with the idea of having me wear some shorts and sneakers and a red and white Arsenal soccer T-shirt. I was going to go to school dressed as a footballer. I guess it was a pretty dumb idea, considering I dressed this way every day, but what other options did I have? I remember being completely embarrassed on the bus as I sat between Captain Hook and one of the Seven Dwarves. Taking pity on me, my brother inked a mustache on my upper lip. I guess he figured that I would look less stupid as an older footballer. Well, my classmates all made tremendous fun of me, but pretty soon they moved on as they were too busy showing off their own cool costumes. I dreaded the fact that the school photographer, who was making his rounds from classroom to classroom, would immortalize me in my silly duds. I decided that I would stand in the 2nd row during the photo in order to conceal my shame.

My teacher back then was a horribly strict woman who was the living reincarnation of the Devil. She loved the Dictatorship and kept us kids terrorized with threats and actual manifestations of punishment. In step with the Dictatorship’s policy of order, Mrs. M. demanded military-like obedience from her 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders. I was in the 2nd grade then and I feared and loathed this woman with passion, as did all my peers. We would sit in twos at our desks, hands clasped together in front of us (as regulations dictated), trembling with fear, hoping she wouldn’t call on us for something or other and consequently whip the shit out of us with her ruler or with the flesh-stinging mullberry twig she cut every morning from the school yard. Anyway, that Halloween we were sitting there, hands clasped in front of us, for what seemed like a very long time, waiting for the stupid photographer to come by, when I suddenly realized I had to pee real bad. I started shaking my two legs back and forth to ease the pain. The bell finally went off signaling the break. Mrs. M. ordered us to stay put. The photographer was due any minute. The pain in my bladder became intense. Braving the anticipation of Mrs. M.’s anger, I raised my hand meekly and asked her if I could run to the bathroom. “Absolutely not!” she barked. She reiterated that the photographer was due imminently. Fifteen agonizing minutes went by. I was in tears, my knees knocking together, my bladder ready to explode. I wasn’t going to make it. I raised my hand again and was shot down again, this time with a threat. I secretly cursed her and the dictators and all they stood for for the first time in my life.

It was at the very moment that the door swung open and the photographer marched in, the moment that my mind imagined a big wave crashing against the shore, that I was finally overwhelmed. Warm urine flooded my khaki shorts and trickled down my trembling leg. Mrs. M., resembling a military sergeant-at-arms, barked out that we should all line up together in front of the blackboard in two rows, one behind the other. Trying to conceal my mishap, I crept up to Mrs. M. and indicated my problem. She looked at me and my dark pee-stain with disdain and ordered me to the front line. Defeated, I edged my way to the front, choosing the corner. Maybe the photographer would crop me out by mistake. No such luck. The flash flashed and I was immortalized, huge pee-spot in the middle of my shorts, stupid Arsenal outfit and all. It was from that day on that I came to hate all fascists and military people and authoritarians. I hated Mrs. M. and everyone who was like her. I hated the Dictator and his bald-headed, limousine-riding, uniformed thugs. My eyes were finally open. I had to pee on myself to wake up, but I was finally awake.

The following year the military junta started to unravel, plagued by its catastrophic handling of student and civilian unrest and its asinine mismanagement and meddling in international affairs. Within a year of the bloody Athens Polytechnic uprising and the Cyprus fiasco the Dictatorship fell and all those bald-headed fascists and M.-types got sent to jail. I rejoiced. I’ll always remember riding my bicycle down to the center of Athens a couple of days after the Athens Polytechnic students’ revolt that ultimately led to the downfall of the Junta. The Dictator had sent in tanks and over twenty protestors were killed as they chanted anti-government slogans. One of the tanks simply rolled over the university’s gates and squashed many of the protestors. The tanks on the streets opened fire and rolled over everything in their way, leaving flattened cars and dead people lying in pools of blood. I remember walking around the area where the events had taken place, my heart pounding. As I crept amongst the carnage and bullet casings and broken glass and garbage and revolutionary fliers, I saw a tattered pair of pants lying on the street, soiled with tire and tank tracks. Near the crotch was a fist-sized imprint of dried blood. It looked a lot like the photo of my Halloween shorts. My heart sank. I was pretty sure that the pants’ occupant hadn’t met a good end. On my way back home I took an oath to never trust dictators and “men of authority.” I remembered my humiliation with Mrs. M. and I took an oath to never trust “women of authority” too. I vowed to myself to always fight violence and hatred and tyranny. I wanted to kill all the fascists. If they stick it in your face, then stick it right back to them.

The Military Junta eventually collapsed but my anti-fascist resolve and belief that violence was necessary to fight tyranny continued. It took me years to realize that I had missed the point. You cannot fight hatred and violence with hatred and violence. The proof was the military Junta itself. It fell because of mismanagement and bad decisions in the international political arena. It fell because it was unpopular. It fell because of the events at the Athens Polytechnic. But most of all it fell because it was based on a philosophy of violence and tyranny. Democracy cannot not exist where violence prospers.

Looking back now, I realize that the photograph of me with the pee-stain is the first photograph of a conscious me. It was like I was born then. That was when I woke up from my childhood dreams. I would be reborn again years later, when I freed myself from the belief that hatred and violence can solve anything. No photograph this time of a childish me with an embarassing p-spot. Just a quirky smile and one eye half-closed, questioning, wondering if the photographer back then knew what I know today.

–Andreas Economakis

This piece is part of a collection of stories on blindness entitled: The Blindness of Life.

Copyright © 2010, Andreas Economakis. All rights reserved.

For more stories by Andreas Economakis click on the author’s name below.

Andreas Economakis

photo by Andreas Economakis

THE SEE-THROUGH CAT

by Andreas Economakis

Last night I had a strange dream about cats. I was with my family somewhere by a lake. As we walked the small dirt path between the woods and the water, we came across a cat with her litter of tiny kittens. Delighted, I knelt down and started to pet the little ones. One of the kittens was so excited he was bouncing around like a plastic ball. He bounced himself right into the lake. Miaowing and splashing about, he struggled to stay afloat. Panicked, I started to get undressed, ready to jump in and save the drowning kitten. A moment later, while I was pulling off my socks, an elderly woman waded into the lake and swam out to the struggling kitten. The white-haired woman, who looked a lot like my estranged mom, grabbed the kitten and threw him up to me. I grabbed the little wet one, happy that he was safe. At that exact moment, another cat came walking down the path. This cat was amazing. He was completely see-through, made of clear glass. The little kittens chased his glass tail as he ambled by. I turned to my daughter to see if she’d noticed how awesome this cat was. That’s when I woke up. My cat Rufus was massaging my belly, hoping to wake me up so that I could feed him. I pet him and he rumbled a purr in response. I better get another cat soon. I think Rufus needs company. I can see right through him on this one.

For Rufus, who recently went missing after 15 years of unswerving companionship.

–Andreas Economakis

This piece is part of a collection of stories on blindness entitled: The Blindness of Life.

Copyright © 2010, Andreas Economakis. All rights reserved.

For more stories by Andreas Economakis click on the author’s name below.

Andreas Economakis

Broken Glass (photo by Andreas Economakis)

DEATH UPSIDE DOWN

by Andreas Economakis

I’m sitting at my desk in my room upstairs.  The light from my desk lamp casts trembling shadows against the pale cream walls, just like in a monk’s cell.  In front of me, a calendar counts the days until my departure.  I cross out and count the remaining days each morning.  I am alone in the quiet house, alone except for the dogs.

Idefix is lying on my bed, shuttering in a dream, emitting an occasional whimper.  I wonder if he too is counting the days.  He will be dead in less than a month.  The bad smell that has been coming from his mouth for weeks should be a sign to me.  I take it for simple bad breath.  Occasionally, I put toothpaste on my finger and coat his palate to cover up the smell.

The room is very still, the kind of still that is thick, padded, drugged.  Like antihistamine, like trying to breathe through a damp wool blanket that’s been draped over your face.  The woods outside are quiet.

Suddenly, a loud skidding noise fills the room, my ears, my skull.  Like a knife cut.  It’s the kind of skidding you know will result in a metallic crunching sound, a heart-skipping, life-shattering crunching sound.  I brace for it.  It comes, deafening, piercing.  I am startled out of my seat.  Idefix awakes abruptly and looks at me with that strange ruffled look he has when waking suddenly from a dream, one ear pressed warm against his head.

I jump up and run down the stairs in two bounds, out the front door, down the dark driveway, to the empty street.  I look to the left.  Smoke and glass and red light and liquid are everywhere.  It is surreal, a silent dream in daytime.  Only thing is it’s night.  I run to the wreck.  A car is lying upside down on another car.  How did it get there?  The smell of gasoline fills my nostrils.  I am the only one here.  No.  A man runs screaming down the street, fading into the darkness.  He runs in slow motion.  Everything is in slow motion.

I creep up to the cars.  The top car is billowing smoke.  Is it going to blow up?  I go to the car’s broken window.  A woman is trapped in the driver’s seat, suspended upside down by her seat belt.  She is crying.  Upside down.  Dark tears trickle down her forehead.  Her eyes are open.  She keeps looking at me.  Her eyes don’t blink.  We look at each other for what seems like an eternity.  Do we recognize each other?

“Go call 911!” says a voice behind me.  “GO!”  It’s my neighbor.  I turn and run back to the house.  By the time I get back to the wreck, the police have cordoned off the intersection.  I look at the neighbor.  “She didn’t make it,” he says.  I walk back to my house and lay on my bed, hugging Idefix.  I wonder… is he still counting the days?

–Andreas Economakis

This piece is part of a collection of stories on blindness entitled: The Blindness of Life.

Copyright © 2010, Andreas Economakis. All rights reserved.

For more stories by Andreas Economakis click on the author’s name below.