July 31, 2010 | Greek
Greek Concludes With…Another Field Trip!
I head back to Astoria in search of Greek.
This is the last day of Greek, in honor of which I went to Astoria, a neighborhood in northwestern Queens with significant Greek history and influences. According to Wikipedia (sorry, that’s the best I can do at this moment), in the 1960s it had the largest Greek population outside of Greece.
Subway Journey to Astoria
I took the N train to the last stop, Ditmars. I felt under a lot of pressure to get this field trip right, because my Greek unit (June 1 through today) unfortunately coincided pretty much perfectly with the period of my running-induced lameness. A hurt foot does not get in the way of using Rosetta Stone, but it is a handicap in exploring New York City neighborhoods.
So I did not get around much this summer, and I apologize to the Greeks of New York for that, because I had grand local-touring ambitions back on June 1 that I did not quite fulfill.
Another thing I am realizing: I really did not hear a lot of Greek during my Greek studies. It was not like with Arabic, or Spanish, or Italian, where you hear the language regularly on the streets of Manhattan.
What was kind of cool, therefore, was that almost the first thing I heard when I got off the subway in Astoria was a man yelling in Greek.
Yelling in Greek Happened Here
He popped out of a basement like candy from a Pez dispenser, hurled something to the ground with a bang, and screamed, “Αύριο, αύριο, αύριο!” (Pronounced AH-vree-oh.) That means, “Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow!” Then he yelled something about τώρα (pronounced tora, and meaning “now”) and stormed off down the street.
Apparently there was a gap between his and someone else’s expectations for what should be happening tomorrow and what should be happening today. And isn’t that kind of thing so often the case in life?
The outburst was a little scary because he seemed slightly unhinged, but I was excited to receive additional external confirmation that I could now (a) recognize Greek and (b) understand some of it, at least at high volume.
I then set off in search of more Greek. Initially my quest did not go well. I had thought I would see a huge cluster of Greek establishments. I did not. When I stopped to inquire of passers-by where I might find a huge cluster, what I kept hearing was that the concentration of Greeks was not what it used to be, that a lot of signs were now in English, and that things were just more spread out. Three different people sent me in three different directions.
But I kept walking around and managed to find some Greek lettering on Greek businesses. More typically, the lettering would be in English, but Greek names and influences were apparent everywhere. My seventh-grade Greek history class, with lists of divinities to memorize, was coming in handy.
Omega Wines & Spirits
Telly’s Taverna, Offering Greek Specialties
Greek Monuments and Accountants
Where the Hippocratic Oath Originated
Hangin’ at the Cathedral of Saint Markella
Where to Go for Greek Presents
I Started to See More Greek Lettering…
…As I Walked Down 31st Street
I kept walking, walking, walking. I ended up in a giant store with Greek everything for sale. I was in Greek heaven. Although the name of the place was Greek Music & Video Superstore, they had a lot more than just music and videos: religious objects, books, clothing, etc. Some of the things—flashcards, for instance—might have been nice for me to have weeks ago.
Jackpot! This Store Sells Everything Greek
Greek Books for Children…
An Entire Section of Greek Wares for Kids…
Greek Rock and Other Music…
Stuff for Lovers of Greek Cinema…
Flashcards: Could Have Used These Two Months Ago!
I was ecstatic to be able to read the Greek on the front of one of the little baby outfits: “I’m sweet,” it said. Baby-clothes literacy is a good outcome for my Greek unit.
On my language expeditions, I generally try to find a food store. As I have mentioned before, however, I am in training and refuse to try to eat my way to fluency, a technique that has failed many people in the past (and is failing people now, even as I write these words). Pictures, however, are non-fattening.
Titan: Greek Food Sold Here
More Food, in Greek
…and Some Drink
I ended up around 30th Avenue and 31st Street, an area that had a number of charming establishments. These are just a couple.
Bakeries Are Cheerful Places
Yaya Means Grandma, and Fournos Is Oven
So that’s it for my Astoria adventure. Tomorrow: Hindi!