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Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Very Thought Provoking Lunch

The lunch was highly unusual for a host of reasons, among them: 1) the lunch was in Athens, Greece, and 2) the name of the place was called "God's Restaurant".

As usual, Spicy Food Guy cannot tell you why he was in Athens, Greece, as this information is best left unknown to the American public.

The reason Spicy Food Guy ate at God's Restaurant, however, was because SFG smacked his head, a hard thump, on the restaurant sign that hung from the sidewalk awning. "Is he OK?" asked the diners sitting at the sidewalk tables, "Get him some ice", "He should sit down", "What a dumbass!" OK, so Spicy Food Guy made that last one up, but it would not have surprised him had it been said.

So, with a goose-egg bump and suffering from mortal embarrassment, Spicy Food Guy allowed himself to be seated at a table next to a Canadian couple.

This is where things got complicated.

First the food. Spicy Food Guy, rather than perusing the menu, boldly asked the waiter to set him up with two of their most popular appetizers. A sort of "surprise me" bravado. The first one, a sort of fried cheese pictured here, was quite tasty, sort of crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside.

The second appetizer, a sort of Dolmades slathered in a creamy lemon sauce (pictured below), was awful to the point where Spicy Food Guy had to gamely choke it down as his waiter watched him suspiciously.

During this culinary adventure, Spicy Food Guy noticed that the restaurant staff was noticeably gentle, friendly, and attentive with the Canadian couple, bringing them small pieces of desert, drinks, and serving these items with warm pats on the shoulder. This gentle attention was led by a restaurant employee that Spicy Food Guy labeled "Pappy". SFG pegged Pap as somewhere between 60 and 110. Hard to tell, so SFG took a picture.

Every time an attractive woman would walk past, Pap would grin at Spicy Food Guy and give him a big thumbs up. Pap also smoked, encouraged customers to do ouzo shots, and generally made a minor bother of himself. SFG liked him immediately.

But as said, Pap kept his attention focused on the Canadian couple, a man and woman in their mid fifties. They saw Spicy Food Guy looking at them curiously, so they told their story.

Three months ago, the man walked out to his driveway and discovered he could not remember how to unlock his car. A visit to the hospital revealed he had a brain tumor -- the worst kind. A "class 5 hurricane, a Katrina" was the way the man described it. He was told he had a zero chance of survival, and had 18 months to live "if everything went perfectly".

So here he was in Greece with his wife, who had roots in Athens. Spending his last 400 days or so seeing the world, and enjoying it immensely, given his cheerfulness, friendliness, and high spirits. Hard for Spicy Food Guy to reconcile, given that the man was going to leave behind a wife and four kids.

So Pap brings the man a glass of ouzo, who turns it down because it would make him dizzy. The restaurant staff immediately declares Spicy Food Guy to be the substitute drinker. The Canadian couple leaves with hugs and kisses all around, and Spicy Food Guy is left sipping his ouzo.

Sitting alone, Spicy Food Guy ponders his life and his own love for his wife and four kids. SFG ponders his mortality. SFG ponders his fortune in being able to see Athens. Spicy Food Guy ponders that he will never again drink ouzo, that tastes like liquid licorice (which SFG hates) mixed with vodka.

Silently declaring himself a wiser man, Spicy Food Guy rises, shakes the hands of Pap and his waiter, and strides away from God's Restaurant. And he hits his head on the sign, again! Same sign, same head, new goose egg! The restaurant staff is stunned at this development. Spicy Food Guy laughs at himself. There seems to be a lesson here, just out of grasp, like the meaning of life itself. Just out of grasp.

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