My more observant readers will note that I haven’t written a single word on this blog the entire month of August, giving you (and me) a break from thinking about the latest twist and turns in the modern day saga of the Greek people. Why have I not written a word in August? Because nothing happens in Athens in August. Nothing. The entire population of the city puts up a “Gone Fishin'” sign on the door of their business and heads out to a private island on their yacht, if they’re rich, or to the home of their grandparents in a rural village somewhere, along with ten or twenty friends and relatives, if they’re not. (Yes, even our local BP gas station put up a hand-written sign saying they had skippered off on vacation and you could damn well find your gas somewhere else if you were foolish enough to stay behind.)
Yes, it’s true that during this time there was a revolt among the left-wing of the governing Syriza party leaving the government without a working majority, causing the Prime Minister to resign, and the reins were handed over to a nice elderly lady who no one had ever heard of to keep a watch over things until the country got around to voting in a new government, and there was general bafflement among those few people, like us, who, for reasons beyond their control, were left stranded in Athens like a handful of survivors after a particularly thorough and successful neutron bomb attack, as to how a new government would be formed with the Prime Minister announcing that he wouldn’t form a coalition government with the corrupt traditional parties that got the country into this terrible mess in the first place, and the Communist Party indicating that it would have no part in any coalition with the Euro butt-lickers of the governing Syriza party, and the current junior partner, a wacko nut-job right wing outfit, polling so low that it will probably not make it into Parliament, and no other party polling well enough to take a lead role, leaving a rather tricky, if not impossible, mathematical problem to be solved for anyone seeking to form a new government.
But since the entire population of the country was off on vacation, no one appears to have noticed this yet. Or maybe they are just tired of it all. Really tired. Which would be completely understandable.
I was going to go on and write about what has struck me as the most significant development observable from my perch in a northern suburb of Athens lately, which is that an alarming number of business owners around here did not just close up for vacation, but have closed up for good. The number of “For Rent” signs on storefronts in our area has multiplied to a frightening new level in recent weeks. The owners of a local kitchen supplies shop in our neighborhood are packing it up after 17 years, explaining that they have been losing money for awhile now and, with the latest debt negotiation agreement with the Eurozone and its accompanying austerity measures, they see no prospect of this turning around anytime in the foreseeable future. Like many Greek business owners, they are regretfully, but logically, cutting their losses and closing up shop.
I was going to write about this and accompany it with a dozen or two photos of bleak, empty storefronts in our neighborhood, explaining why this is a sign that things are heading downhill and are only likely to get worse. But that would be too depressing to think about, so I thought I would share a more pleasant tidbit–the meaning and origin of the word amethyst.
We went to the lovely Costa Lazaridis winery north of Athens yesterday and tasted, among other things, their very nice white blend and Rosé, both of which go by the name of Amethystos, or Amethyst, like the gemstone. We learned from our friendly and knowledgeable host that the wine was christened such because in ancient Greek times it was believed that holding an amethyst stone in one’s hand while drinking wine would prevent the drinker from becoming inebriated. His tale made sense–the word for “drunk” in modern Greek is methismenos and the prefix “a,” as in English, is a negation, so amethyst does, in fact, sound like “not drunk” in modern Greek. I looked it up in the dictionary and, sho’ nuff, there was the whole etymological story– amethyst: Middle English via Old French from Latin amethystus, from Greek amethustos ‘not drunken’ (because the stone was believed to prevent intoxication.)
There you go–hold an amethyst stone in your hand and guzzle all the Jagermeister shots your stomach can handle and you’ll walk out of the bar straight-up sober. Not sure I’d want to test that one out though.