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Madonna, West Side Story
and Back to School Night

Madonna in AthensSo my busy week has come to an end. Its a cloudy Sunday in Athens and except for a lunch or dinner date with a glamorous TV star I have nothing planned. Madonna never e-mailed me about going out for my birthday. Probably it was blocked by my spam filter. You know how you get those e-mails about Paris Hilton's video that immediately go into junk mail. Probably Madonna had as her subject 'From Madonna' and that raised red flags and it got deleted. Unfortunate because we had this really nice little get-together in the basement of the Taverna Psiri that she would have enjoyed. Dorian was there. Pandellis Melissinos, George from Fantasy Travel, Kosta from Byzantino Jewelry and Ana from Villas of Greece and of course my family who left before Madonna would have arrived since her concert did not let out until around midnight. When we left the taverna sometime after that Psiri was flooded with kids who had come directly from the stadium by metro. I was pretty beat and tried to get Ana to let me spend the night at her place but she probably didn't trust herself to be alone with me and said "No way!" So I asked if the Attalos had a free room but they didn't either so I flagged a cab and came back to Psyhico. The traffic coming from the concert was crawling into the city at about 2 kph. The stadium holds 80,000 people and it was sold out as far as I know. That's why the hotels were full too. I guess Madonna has her followers in the same way that the Deadheads followed the Grateful Dead all over American and Europe. The gypsies who followed the Dead sold acid, bootleg tapes, tie-dyed T-shirts, and other hippy paraphernalia in the parking lots and streets outside the stadiums. What did the Madonna-heads sell? Lipstick? Dominatrix stuff? Aderall? I guess I should have gone to check it out but I was still kind of hurting because she had not e-mailed me though it may not have been her fault.

American Community Schools of Athens, GreeceThursday night I went to 'Back to School Night' at ACS. Most of you know how it goes. You follow your child's schedule and meet the teacher with the other parents and they tell you about the class and what they are trying to accomplish. It was kind of fun though even though the classes were only 12 minutes long by 6th period I was ready to cut out. She has some great teachers in particular her history teacher who she loves and her drama teacher who I loved. She was young, beautiful and was so expressive that I won't even mention her name because some Hollywood director will read this and snatch her away to make a star out of her. I liked the different style of parents. In North Carolina the parents of Amarandi's classmates were much younger than us and sort of cookie-cutter types that looked scared, as if school was the most dangerous place to be and at any second a Columbine style massacre was going to take place and they would be caught in the crossfire. ACS had an interesting assortment of parents in all shapes, sizes and nationalities, most with one thing in common. They were adventurous enough to be living in a foreign country. One of the kids was translating to his mother in French word for word what his teachers were saying. Some parents came with armed security who waited in the parking lot. There were  parents who were students with me 35 years ago, like Ricky Cocorelis who is an actor-director in Athens and Amarandi's English teacher was the son of my Spanish teacher.

Afterwards I really needed a drink. I was kind of stressed out. I realized that Andrea was one of those kids who would be furiously taking notes and then when she missed something would ask "What did he say, what did he say?" and then while I was telling her what the teacher said I would miss the next thing and then I would be lost. (She does this with movies too). So imagine if you had to sit next to Andrea in every class. By 4th period I was sitting on the opposite side of the room from her. Then she would always want to say something extra to the teacher after the bell rang and then we would be late for the next class. I wanted to say that it was not my fault, that my wife-girlfriend made me late but after several classes its like the dog eating your homework and anyway nobody really seemed to care. The last few classes were geometry and Greek but I was wishing Amarandi had taken several more drama classes. It really brought me back to my high school state-of-mind. I only liked the classes that had beautiful girls in them. Now I was going from class to class hoping for a teacher as beautiful as the Drama teacher or wondering which of the cute moms would be in them. I had to remind myself that I was there for a reason, to see what my daughter's classes were like. Not to find single moms to hit on. It just goes to show you that no matter how much you think you have grown up, if you put yourself back in your old highschool environment the responsible parent goes into hibernation and the hormone-crazed adolescent wakes up ready for action. No wonder so many parents don't come to Back to School Night. They can't handle it!

Afterwards we went to a nice Italian restaurant called Pullcinella, right next to the school. They were very friendly but Andrea and I were both kind of frayed and by the time we had split a carafe of wine and relaxed we were already too mad at each other to enjoy a meal and just settled for an antipasto platter. Then Amarandi called and said she was in the Plaka and that was sort of the last straw and we left and drove home so we could be good examples of how you don't go out on a schoolnight or at least don't come home late and drunk from an Italian Restaurant when you were supposed to be at Back to School Night. On the way home we got stuck in a horrendous traffic jam in Halandri. It was caused by a long line of cars at one of the few gas stations that had gasoline. The customs officials had gone on strike this week and closed the borders so no petrol or food could get into the country.

West Side Story in Athens, GreeceFriday after school Amarandi had to get braces and from there we went to the Theatro Badmitten to see West Side Story which is on its world tour. The Badmitten Theater is one of the few successful venues left over from the 2004 Olympics and it is a beautiful place to see a show. Lots of parking and a big lobby with a bar. You can actually go to see a show and have mixed drinks, beer, wine and food. In America they practically strip-search you when you go to a concert and if they sell alcohol it is in paper cups because they don't trust us with bottles. The musical itself was good. You know how musicals are. There are times when you are enthralled and others when you just want it to hurry up, mostly during solos and duets. The big dance numbers were terrific and even had Amarandi interested. I had forgotten how the play ends in tragedy. It seems sort of awkward and a let down. I know West Side Story is sort of a sacred cow and to criticise the play itself is like saying Thomas Jefferson was a lousy president. But if I had written it I would stick the big dance number of 'There's A Place for Us' that seems to take place in heaven, at the very end after everyone of interest has been killed or taken away by the cops, sort of like saying "sure life is unfair and full of tragedy but get through it and there is a hope for something better in a world beyond this one." Then everyone can leave the theater in a good mood. Sort of like singing 'Always Look on the Bright Side' in the crucifixion scene at the end of Life of Brian.

After the show those of us who bought tickets through ACS were invited to a wine and cheese party with the cast. Only two cast members came out though, but they did hang out and talk to use and sign autographs. I met several people who knew my father and we were among the last 10 people to leave the theater. Amarandi was suffering because of her braces. She has taken an unhappy turn and misses home. I do too, to be honest but we are here and like anywhere it has its ups and downs and if we left we would miss it and think of the things we could have done but didn't.

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