Birthplace of democracy or final resting place of the euro?

You have to wonder what Greece will be famous for in another thousand years. There are as many taxis as in New York City and walking around Plaka, the pedestrian area at the feet of the Acropolis, you can’t but think how difficult turning them away must have been.

Socrates was a walker and most recent studies of the brain will tell you that moving your feet back and forth when in the vertical position (a.k.a. walking) seems to greatly enhance cerebral activity. So it comes as no surprise then that meat on a stick (souvlaki) was first tried out in this ’hood. More surprising perhaps is the fact that, whether buying bread in the local bakery, having a key copied or simply asking the going rate of a Frappe (the Greek response to the Frappuccino), the level of spoken English is quite amazing.

Lately I’ve had a smile somewhat permanently glued to my face. I can’t help but think of how incredible it is that the one thing people can’t take away from you is your mood (though at Spirit Airlines they always try extra hard). And why shouldn’t I be smiling?

I’m making a good living playing and composing music, am with the woman I love and she is 6-months pregnant with our baby girl, Nikita. I’m probably violating a number of unspoken rules in writing about our baby before even having met her, but I’ve always had trouble keeping good news to myself. At the moment, I’m flying back to Athens after having spent a month bouncing around the United States for performances, which took me from Denver to Grand Rapids and finally Miami. Not all of it was smooth sailing, though. On my last flight for instance, I ordered a Coke and ended up with a glass of ice landing neatly in my lap during a moment of turbulence. Despite a valiant attempt to extricate myself from the seat (all these years of countless seatbelt demonstrations clearly wasted on me) I ended up with a large wet stain in the region generally reserved for babies and octogenarians. But I digress (btw, I’m writing this at 35,000 feet, in case anything that follows sounds a bit oxygen-deprived.)


Civil unrest

I could be worried about the fact that a performance career is difficult enough without combining it with the challenges involved in raising a family. I might question the sanity of choosing to have a baby in Athens with the country on the verge of civil unrest (the NY health system would certainly have brought me financial unrest) And while I’m sure another musician is just what the Greek economy needs to spearhead a comeback, I sometimes wonder if this six-month move is a rational choice. Birthplace of democracy and possible final resting place of the Euro?

True, in my family when we talk about the Greek problem it really has more to do with the fact that I got a girl from Athens pregnant. Don’t get me wrong, they are just as excited about this as I am, but being parents their main job is to worry, which usually entails presenting you with a list of dire scenarios, then justifying them with the words, “I’m just saying it for your own good.” Yes, of course, how foolish of me not to see that right away.

The truth is plenty of touring musicians struggle with the issue of family separation and the strain it can put on a relationship. Skype can only take you so far (actually I proposed via Skype, but that’s another story) Now add a baby to the mix. A teeny tiny baby – or TTB as we’ve started referring to her of late. And there it is again. That feeling. That crazy good sensation I get every time I think of my two girls. On the other side of the ocean as I speed toward them. And I realise how powerless words are in the face of these emotions.

How silly rational thought sounds to the irrationally upbeat. How hopeless capturing this feeling is, communicating it, relaying it to you right now as you sit armed with just this newspaper and the morning coffee. Perhaps considering your own good fortune in this moment. Perhaps not. No matter. Socrates might tell you knowing nothing is a pretty good starting point. The eurozone controversies might lead you to believe the opposite. For my part, as long as I feel this way the whole world is smiling with me.

Julian Gargiulo is a pianist and composer who divides his time between wishing sabre-toothed tigers weren’t extinct and making paper pirate hats out of his old bios. In between his involvement as fundraiser for and friend of diabetes he also finds time for touring with his new album mostlyjulian, working on his nonprofit 16000children.org, curating the Water Island Music Festival in the US Virgin Islands and Crossing Borders of Hunter College in NY, and endlessly walking the streets of New York in search of people to add as Facebook friends.


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