Showing posts with label Astoria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Astoria. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Dormition of the Theotokos in New York

The "falling asleep" of the Virgin Mary is commemorated each August 15 on the Greek Orthodox calendar with services and big, secular festivals. Catholics call it the Assumption.

In this New York church, the all-holy Mother of God is depicted on an icon cloth placed in a wooden tomb that is covered in beautful flowers.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Fish Soup & Kalamari

Found an irresistible special on a chalkboard menu today: fish soup or ψαρόσουπα-- with carrot, potato, just a bit of flaky white fish and lots of fresh lemon.
It may have had a little tomato, or okra, for flavor. Or saffron. It was not pureed, but not too chunky. I had καλαμαράκια and pita bread on the side.
This is my favorite taverna in Astoria: Tiny, nice menu with a few twists, the server with hazel eyes always calls me sweetie, and today he's playing the best acoustic rebetika. Antiques and old photos on the shelves, below wood beams. Νow playing: "Φεύγω, γιασου γιασου!"
This fish soup recipe is quite simple.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

On Saturday Night Live tonight!

The man at right and his friend from Dallas got lost in Astoria today as they looked for Stamatis Restaurant.
So I took them past it to my favorite spot, Taverna To Koutouki - tiny, decent food, warm hosts and best: fabulous antique Plaka decor. (on 23rd Avenue -- Η Ταβερνα του Κουτουκι) And then he casually mentioned that he plays keyboards for rapper Eminem and will be on Saturday Night Live tonight! 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lovin' Avgolemono

A funny video on egg-lemon soup, that therapy for the soul with a heavy twist of citrus. It's the latest from a cheesy, local Greek kid with a good sense of humor named Sotirios, or "So Tiri" which is Greek-English for "So Cheese." (His last video featured feta and a goat.) With apologies to the Fugees and praise for his grooving grandmother or Yiayia. The intro lyrics:

You know I like feta and bread,
But I also like avgolemono.
Let’s go to eat!
I went to my Yiayia’s
For her to fix me something to eat
She cooked pastitsio (Greek lasagna)
But I was still hungry.
Avgolemono. Fix it for me please.
It’s the only soup that I love.
Put a carrot in the water,
Two carrots and a little celery
In about an hour it will smell great
You mix in milk and eggs,
At the end you put in rice, and squeeze two lemons … 
Bean soup, lentil soup, get out of here!
When I go to bed, you’re always on my mind,
And when I get up? Avgolemono.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ugliness & Beauty

St. Irene Chrysovalantou, Astoria NY
This post as been updated: St. Irene Chrysovalantou is the prettiest Greek Orthodox church in Astoria, but was tainted by allegations of sex abuse.

This church-monastery adhered to the old Julian calendar, unlike the majority of Greek Orthodox and other Christian churches that follow the "new" Gregorian calendar. St. Irene functioned without official blessing or affiliation in the 1980s and 1990s, but was absorbed into the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America in 1998. It now reports directly to the Ecumenical Patriachate in Turkey. 

Someone brought me to St. Irene for a visit in 1998. I had a dark dream afterward that instructed me not to enter the doorway. I visited a decade later, and the sermon contemplated the likelihood humans will be implanted with computer chips. Later, at a summer festival, a priest was shouting about Greek nationalism and women were selling gold jewelry that penetents had left at the icon of St. Irene to exact miracles. Λουκουμάδες to go, please.

As for the scandal: without any U.S. court accountability, a verdict was doled out by the mother church decades after many events allegedly occurred. In April 2012, former St. Irene Chrysovalantou Archbishop Paisios and former Bishop Vikentios were demoted to the status of monk, in Greece, by the Patriarchate, following an investigation of horrible abuses. The sordid allegations, some involving groups, were not confirmed nor denied. Paisios initially fled to Greece, preventing New York cops from talking to him. In the unprescendented private church hearing in New York, in 2011, dozens of St. Irene abuse victims and those with knowledge were videotaped for review by the Patriarch in Istanbul. The defrocking followed. 

Christian forgiveness likely enabled a predatory psychological power game. How many people are responsible? How do victims recover, and what is the collateral damage to others? How does a worship community rebuild? Will lawsuits cripple the church? And what really happened?  

The big leak: a young St. Irene nun gave up her vows, said she suffered sexual travesties at the monastery, and turned over roughly $260,000 in cash, and gold coins, to the NYPD 114th Precinct in Astoria, according to this WSJ/Fox video The woman says she turned over $500,000. (See the National Herald article.) Things came to a head when Vikentios' brother Spyros Malamatenios made shocking sexual allegations about Paisios in "Predators in Our Midst," a National Herald exclusive republished by 

The former nun, now in her late 20s, was a typical story: the daughter of a priest named Fitzpatrick with 12 children, she was brought up in the monastery to believe males and females, tonsured and otherwise, of all ages, living in close proximity, was normal -- TOTALLY contrary to all church rules and common sense. Another very sad story: the confession of a woman who divorced to become a nun at St. Irene Chrysovalantou -- with her 9-year-old daughterThis nun eventually left St. Irene for the nearby, renegade St. Markella Greek Orthodox Church and monastery, and explains how she didn't protect her daughter.

St. Irene Chrysovalantou, Astoria NY

Sadly, there is a website dedicated to survivors of abuse in Orthodox Churches called This is a relatively new phenomenon for the U.S. Orthodox. One case that emerged decades after the fact in Chicago and Texas is outlined in court documents here. The story of Fr. George Pyle also is explained in an article.

And then there's a rather grotesque-but-humorous caper about monks in Greece who tried to fly the bones of a dead nun from Athens to an island, but airport officials would have none of it. "It's ok," the monks told security, "She's a saint."

More reading here on the cult mentality that can creep into Orthodox Christian churches steeped in strict tradition and obedience.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Astoria Figs

Astoria's Italians and Greeks manage to grow fig trees against the snowy odds, drawing the attention of the New York Times this week: "Winter Coats No Longer Fashion for Fig Trees."

New York's winters are snowier but warmer than those in Chicago, thanks largely to the waters that surround us. Growing up in suburban Chicago, a family friend tried annually to keep a fig tree alive, between the garage and Tudor house. But his A-framed plastic tents, complete with heat lamp, never were enough for a Chicago winter. Getting off the Kennedy Expressway on a winter night, we'd drive past and root for his progress. But often, by March, the lamp was off.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Queens Film Fest

A powerful film about minorities in Turkey, directed by Mahsun Kirmizigül, an apparently well-known musician, actor and film producer, opens the Queens International Film Festival in Astoria on Thursday, Nov. 12. A hat tip to the American-Turkish Society for being among the festival sponsors. There are scores of choices among the shorts, documentaries and features; below are my choices related to India, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Palestine and various religious and cultural themes I've blogged about. Several Hellenes are presenting their work. One of the main venues is the auditorium in the really cool, new Frank Sinatra high school for performing arts in Astoria, a public school partly financed by former local Tony Bennett. My picks:

My illustrious Astoria actor-friend Michael Malizia stars in a scary short that promised to be fantastic: That's Life.
I Saw the Sun Minorities in an Eastern Turkish village confront violence, an educational divide and displacement to Istanbul and Northern Europe. Feature, 90 minutes
Kerala the Cradle of Christianity in South Asia: Documentary, 34 min
Exarchia Culture Shock Snippets from the violent riots in Athens, Greece one year ago. Documentary, 12 minutes
The Same Blood Stories of immigrants arriving on Sicily's southeast coast. Documentary, 56 minutes
Palestine, Beer and Oktoberfest under Occupation A father-daughter team create Palestine's first beer, uniting 3 religions. Documentary, 43 minutes.
The Lonely Rabbit A furry critter is too shy for love, but hopes. Animation, 15 minutes
Skylight Mockumentary on penguins' plight. Animation, 5 minutes
The Beautiful People By two Chicago directors, about two irresponsible rich girls who lose their financing. Short, 16 minutes
Sultans of Bosphorus Does American soccer have a place in Turkey?
Random Lunacy Busking homeless family travels the world. Documentary, 60 minutes.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Astoria Genes!

A National Geographic study of our deep genetic ancestry is making a pit-stop in Astoria Park tonight with an 8 p.m. movie, "The Human Family Tree."
It highlights a day collecting genetic samples in Astoria, only a few train stops from Midtown Manhattan, but part of "one of the most diverse corners of the world, Queens New York." The program airs on The National Geographic Channel Sunday, Aug. 30 at 9 p.m. The idea is, submit a swab of your cheek, mail it in with a check for $100 plus shipping, and discover that your roots, through long-ago migrations, are from Africa or other parts unknown. Seems a bit ironic that those who might be most interested -- immigrants -- have to pay for a cable television subscription to see the program. NOTE POST-SCREENING: one fascinating discovery in the movie is from a young Turkish man living in Astoria. The National Geographic lab analysis determined half his genetic code is common among Askenazi Jews. "I am a Muslim," he says rather incredulously. The things we don't know!