Zorba the Norwegian

Yesterday Robin and I ate what I have taken to calling our Zorba the Greek lunch. It consisted of homemade hummus, strips of bell peppers, pita bread, and Kalamata olives. Maybe we don’t have this meal every month, but pretty close to that often. It is delicious, easy to prepare, and you never feel the need to sleep it off.

I was in my early 20s when I became caught up in the writings of Nikos Kazantzakis, starting with The Last Temptation of Christ, then going on to Zorba the Greek, The Greek Odyssey, Saint Francis, Freedom or Death et al. Once I discovered his stuff, it seemed that everything that I’d read before was pallid and passionless. Kazantzakis’ characters get up in the morning, splash their faces with cold water, then open their front door and charge straight at life, rather than waiting for it to come to them.

I swear the books actually have a pulse. You can feel it beating as you read.

Anyway, in Zorba, the men working in the fields would sit down to a lunch of bread and olives. At the age of twenty-two I thought this sounded like one of the coolest things ever to do, and I also thought that if I set my fisherman’s cap at a rakish angle, why, I could positively pass for a baby-faced Anthony Quinn.

Any of you who are thinking that a mild form of ennui is the best that you can hope for today, I have only one thing to say to you: GET UP DAMMIT! Go to the library and check out Freedom or Death. Bleed a little, cry a little, lust a little, and try to imagine what it would be like to leap up and run hopelessly at full speed and side by side with Captain Michalis at the formidable Turkish defenses.

If we don’t exercise that imagination of ours, it becomes as slack as any unused muscle might. And while your body may go no further than the grocery store today, that beautiful mind of yours can go anywhere.

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A man needs a little madness or else he never dares cut the rope … and be free.

Zorba

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I find the stories dealing with the shrinkage of some of America’s great reservoirs, like lakes Mead and Powell, fascinating on more than one level. There is the tragic one in that the reason for their diminished state is the seemingly endless drought the West is caught in. There is nothing funny about this part.

The interesting level is what is being revealed on the bottom of those lakes. Bodies in barrels, for instance. When Lefty shot Maxie in 1956, stuffed his body into a barrel, and pushed it into the dark waters of Lake Mead one starless night, he could not have ever guessed that we’d be reading about his adventure at our breakfast tables in 2022.

To jump back in time, I recall an afternoon where I was fishing on a lake in South Dakota, and had just lost yet another lure to the snags on the bottom. Fishing lures often hook up on the bottom’s debris, refuse to be dislodged, and are finally grudgingly left behind by cutting the line.

I thought to myself – what fun it would be if the lake could be drained and I could come back here and see what treasures had been left behind over the decades. Surely I must have lost thousands of dollars in fishing lures by now, and I am only one of a multitude to be so afflicted. There would be watches, billfolds, eyeglasses, gazillions of beer cans, maybe a few pieces of evidence that belonged in criminal trials of the past.

An amateur archeologist’s dream, and so much easier to pick it up from the dry lakebed rather than bother with all that tedious digging.

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I have a clear favorite among Native American musical groups, and its name is Brulé. The group has an origin story that is somewhat unusual. Its leader, Paul Laroche, grew up as an adopted son in a white family, in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. He was told that the reason his hair and skin were darker was that he was “French-Canadian.”

When his adoptive parents died, Paul was helping go through their papers when he discovered that he was neither French nor Canadian, but instead had been born to a Lakota woman in South Dakota, on the Lower Brule reservation.

Not long after this, Laroche went to that reservation where he met his blood relatives for the first time. Eventually he moved his own family to Lower Brule, where he still lives. Until that time he had been a musician without a firm direction, but now he took what he already knew and combined it with traditional native music to come up with his own new songs. He also took on a mission – to foster understanding between Native Americans and the dominant culture.

The musical group, Brulé, was formed which consisted of Paul and his two children, Nicole and Shane, along with additional musicians who have joined and left over the years. Robin and I have been lucky enough to see them perform many times.

Buffalo Moon, by Brulé

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Finally, something for my friend who is finally recovering at home after weeks in hospital. One of the most beautiful pieces ever written for classical guitar, played by a master.

Recuerdos de la Alhambra, by Andres Segovia

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