Tuesday, February 5, 2013

it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…


Some of you may remember watching ‘Mister Roger’s Neighborhood’ on TV as a kid. I watched it too. A kindly, soft-spoken man dressed in nerdy clothes showed us around his fictional neighborhood, filled with polite characters like the friendly mailman. Well, I’m not Mr Rogers but this is what I saw and heard around my neighborhood on one recent day…
…I found myself at the supermarket around noon, the worst possible time to be there. It was packed, lines at the registers were long, and I gradually made my way to the toilet paper aisle, weaving in and out of the crowd… worn-out mothers pushing strollers, weary grandmothers leaning on canes slowly inching their way forward, oblivious shoppers blocking the aisles with their overflowing supermarket carts…

So there I stood in front of the enormous wall of toilet paper when I hear a woman speaking loudly into her cell phone and see her coming full force, barreling through the aisle unmindful of the rest of us who were courteously trying to maneuver ourselves around each other. We all overheard the woman’s very loud cell phone conversation:
“…I tell you, I prefer to just leave my apartment unrented. My son told me he wants to move into the apartment himself but it’s on the ground floor and I’m worried he might get robbed. These Albanians are unreal. They’ll rob and beat you so fast you don’t know what happened. My own mother got robbed on the street, they took her purse and dragged her to the ground!! Golden Dawn, and once again, I say Golden Dawn is the answer!!” She pushed her way past us and disappeared down the aisle filled with cleaning products. I stood staring at the wall of toilet paper, stunned.

A few minutes later, still stunned, I stood in line at the register. It was noisy, people were cranky and bored… and then I heard the voice again, coming from a few rows down. Over the racket I heard bits and pieces: “the first time, I voted for Syriza…. then I voted for Golden Dawn and I will only vote for them now…”
I went home, rolling my cart past a few empty storefronts, some beggars, the neighborhood pawn shop… I turned on the TV as I put the groceries away.

The news was reporting on the death of the last surviving member of the 1967-74 military dictatorship in Greece, Nikos Dertilis at age 92. The ex-colonel had spent the last 37 years in prison. He was serving a life sentence for the 1973 murder of Michalis Myroyiannis, a student during the Athens Polytechnic uprising. The funeral was attended, among others, by Golden Dawn parliament members and their supporters. In an article on its website dated January 29, Golden Dawn stated “…Greece mourns the loss of a Man, whose life and work was mighty proof of the racial continuity, in its most heroic form, of Greek Military History, which is paved with blood…”
The funeral service was conducted by Bishop Amvrosios of Kalavryta who hailed Dertilis as “a hero, like Kolokotronis and Socrates.”

A eulogy was given by Grigoris Michalopoulos, (editor of the newspaper Eleutheri Ora) who said “a hero has gone, a hero like the president of the Hellenic Republic Georgios Papadopoulos [president during the military dictatorship]. In your last letter you told me that only the two of us have remained. However, I say to you now that we number in the thousands.”
I listened to these words as I put the giant package of toilet paper away in the cabinet. Then I switched the TV off, thinking “it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood” and wishing that I was merely experiencing the sights and sounds of a (warped) but fictitious Mr Roger’s neighborhood.

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