There is a long tradition of hooliganism in my family. I am ashamed to admit it, but having two Greek-born parents did not prevent me from inheriting the 'impassioned gene during my tender years growing up in the harsh, rough-and-tumble land of Australia.
My father, a self-taught, self-made man, was somebody who found parenthood thrust upon him. When my mother's cancer invaded her body by the time I was five and she was bedridden, I became his sidekick. I was his little buddy, the Gilligan to his his boat's Captain. In later years, I became his usually unwilling co-conspirator.
My father is an erudite, elegant guy until you take him to a soccer match. If the Greek soccer team is losing he goes berserk and at one memorable match when Sydney Olympic was flailing against the Italians, he jumped over the guard gate and punched the umpire. The fact that the umpire was a good friend was apparently of no importance in his moment of fury.
There is only one other place where he lets it er...all hang out. Greek night clubs.
The mere strain of a bouzouki turns my dad into a raving love lunatic.
Last night, my dad and I went to a local Greek restaurant and there was a trio playing. Naturally a woman was involved. My father's silliness truly emerges when a woman is in the vicinity. This woman was a famous Greek singer who was visiting L.A. and performing for a few nights.
If you have never been to a Greek restaurant or nightclub perhaps you are unfamiliar with the custom of breaking dishes.
I could not believe the waste I witnessed last night as countless (albeit, cheap) dinner plates were brought out by the box load and smashed at her the feet as she warbled away in Greek. She was obviously used to having stuff chucked at her. I noticed she dexterously edged away shards of glass as she sang. And the dishes continued to mount.
At one point before she took a break, the dishes were up to her well-toned thighs.
The worst offender was my dad who, in an apparent effort to outdo another old fart across the room, kept indicating to the waiter to bring out more dishes.
Just having been laid off from my movie studio job (Thank you, pending Screen Actors Guild strike!!) all I could think about was the cost of all those dishes.
The man across the room eyed my dad with such venom, my Greek grandma would swear we'd just been cursed. He whispered to his own waiter and the malicious smile that formed on that waiter's lips even made my dad take pause.
The waiter emerged from the wine cellar a few minutes later, struggling with a box that he almost dropped getting to the stage. The singer never skipped a beat (if you can call it that) and barely glanced down to see that it was full of champagne bottles.
Her only acknowledgment was when the waiter popped the cork on a single bottle and hurried away from the stage. Only then did she nod at her benefactor. My father was busy perusing the menu to see how much his lust rival had plonked down for his offering.
"Ten grand," my dad breathed. "She's not that good!"
Somehow, in spite of the money the other guy spent, the singer chose to meet my dad first and came to our table for a glass of wine. She and my dad flirted shamelessly for so long that I started to whine.
"Dad, I want to go home."
"Not on your nelly," he said, ordering another bottle and a plate of flaming cheese. The singer drifted to her other suitor next and appeared to be having just a good a time with him as she had with my dad.
"We're here for the long haul, A.J," my dad informed me. When I groaned and moaned and otherwise protested, he shook his finger in my face.
"This is a parent's revenge!"
"Revenge? For what? What did I do?"
"All those bloody years I waited for you outside parties, fencing practice, debating practice, football...tennis...the bloody dances...that bloody idiot time you decided to try smoking and got Saturday detention...freezing my bored buns off! Now it's my turn. Go sit in the car and wait. Daddy's busy now!"
I just stared at him. I'd like to blame the two bottles of Retsina. I'd like to blame the - to me, bland and tuneless - female singer, but I knew my dad meant every word.
"Okay, dad," I said. Unfortunately the singer left, with another man entirely and my father and his assumed rival decided to settle their differences the old-fashioned way. Playing tuvli, or backgammon.
And I ate the flaming cheese, sipped at my wine and waited. Really, not such bad revenge after all.