Monday, 7 July 2014

The Teachings of Don Camillo: A Greek CabWay of Knowledge

After one of those productive all-nighters that leave me looking like a Picasso the next morning, I called a cab and was ready for a good 20-minute ride. The motel didn't buy my last-minute change of flight average alibi to get a late check-out, so as a retaliation I chose to take all my change which I usually leave on the desk as a tip for the Housekeeping...all $2.57. Oh yeah and I also took a notepad, a pen, and 2 mini lotions, huh.

The driver was a smiling, pleasant-looking Greek guy in his late 50’s who had a ponytail. Today, because of the long day/night and moving and the heat, is actually the first day in many months that I have my own hair in a ponytail. OohH! Then, as usual he asked THE question: Where are you from?

He seemed interesting and the storyteller was already excited to start conversing with him. So I didn't go for the 'Where do you think?' game. But went straight to when after a BA in journalism and double minor in psychology and philosophy I was trying conform to the mundane life as I started working in the corporate world in Egypt; to moving to the unknowns territories of Canada 4 years ago where I had found my true self and redefined it; until ending with touring the U.S as I write my book; then finally with us, me and him, him and I, in this cab, who happen to be sharing some life advice in the present Here and Now. To ketchup, check my latest post, Things I Couldn't Quite Understand After Being On The Road For Seven Months to know exactly what brought us to this moment.

When talking about working for hotels I told him that the formalities and the nonsensical regulations and SOP's were all too absurd to me, even though I tried pretending to play the game for many years. I also told him about how some training manager came once to comment on my long sideburns, and that another boss wanted me to shorten my hair, which was not long at all at the time. I just looked, and probably was in fact, different than the rest of the 1000 employees. However, even with dressing us in uniforms and instructing us to act in a certain way like they did in the Jesuites school I went to, it was practically impossible for me to conform. We're all unique, yet people try so hard to fit in when they were really born to stand out. And no one could ever convince me that being a good or bad duty manager depends on the length of some facial hair. Not a single one.

It's funny how more than ten years prior a couple of teachers at schools also wanted me to cut my hair. Not too sure what's everyone problem with it.

The driver then cut me off with a question that I couldn't hear very well, so I just nodded and kept going with whatever I was saying. He stopped me again: “No, what I was trying to ask you is what was your reaction when they told you stuff like that?"

Aha, I specifically enjoy those who ask me questions while I'm mid a story because that means they are interested and that they either want to know more or they want to clarify some details they had missed.

“Oh, well, the first times I kept ignoring the guy. Then once I tried to rationalize, only for him to tell me that hotel employees in Australia who work for the same chain can have piercings and facial hair! Really. Apparently, he explained, it differs from culture to culture. This is when my bullshit meter went KABOUM.”

When in my next job the second person repeated his comment about my long hair, one day I had had enough and just went to the barber later and cut the whole thing...a la numero 1. And the next morning I shaved the beard and wore the suit and tie and just went to my shift looking like I did. They wanted to play by rules. OK, we'll play by rules but MY rules. I still remember the freaked out looks on those reception girls' faces when they saw me pimped like that at 8 a.m.

The 'uncle' with the two cousins in 2005 after that haircut

This was the second time I had ever cut my hair so short after doing it only once during my senior year in school. It was fun to experience and all, but I felt naked and never did it again.

“You know when I was your age I was like you. I would live anywhere, didn't care about many things. I was living my days, you know. I was doing what I wanted to do and I was happy,” he told me. 

That already was a light relief, and I was nodding in agreement in the rear-view mirror.
 It’s because not many older guys tell me so and look like they really mean it. From the look in his eyes I believe the driver did mean it. The pleasant surprise and the source of my joy lie always in the fact that those people had actually survived.

“Until…you get married and have your own family,” he carried on.

“What happens then?” I found myself asking, probably in my own head.

“Well, you stop thinking about yourself. My happiness now is in giving my two children a good life. The eldest is a girl and she's in University, she wants to become a writer, like you. I don't want anything for myself. I'm a technician during the week and I was capable of investing in that cab. I only drive it in the weekend, the other days there is a nice young man who works on it. And my life like this is satisfied.”

“Of course if someone came to you 30 years ago and told you at this age you will be married (twice) and will have kids and living in California you would have not believed them, right?”

“I would say they're crazy.”

I agreed with the philosophy of feeling good when you do good. Be it a partner, a child, a parent or just a random stranger, I believe that what the driver was talking about was pure, genuine Love. He's living to make them happy. A great place to be.

“Settling doesn't have to be limiting or boring, right? You know, kids and all.” I’m sure I had asked him this time — with a certain anticipation of a cheeky young boy who knows where the dialogue he’s part of is heading.

“No, no. There are good things to it. The kids, someone takes care of them. Either the mother or the father or..., that is not really the issue.”

I found myself deliberately thinking out loud: “But how can you create something, Life, out of you, your own sperm, and then just forget about it like, say, a male Panthera pardus?

“Ahha, then you may be there in your mind,” he tells me as we both locked eyes in the mirror and shared another smile.


Well yeah, you see at this age many of my friends have already 2 or 3 teenagers around.

How old are you now Omar?

I’ll be 37 in August.

Mm, you’re not too old, but you're also not young.

Amen. Middle age, they call it? *Hahahihi

After a brief pause, he asked me where is “the” woman(en) in my life and I told him. It was then almost like begging the question ‘Do you want to take it to the next level?’

I said I’ve been open to the idea for a few years now. Understandably, however, some folks are rather wary from me, because, “you know, I may seem too crazy or wild or different for them.” (Confesión: For many).

“Never change yourself for anyone. Keep doing what you know is right,” he calmly responded. 

“Yes yes, that is the one key to happiness,” I said with a huge grin and a certain twinkle in my glistening right eye.

“Now next left please, then another left. GREAT. I have really enjoyed this ride. Thank you for the encouraging words. They always help out, especially during the darkest hours, because that's when they get a chance to fan the glimmering flames of our inner fire.”
Well, I had said something similar but now I'm making it more poetic for your sheer delight and joyous enchantment. 

“I really enjoyed our talk too. Stay who you are and all the best Omar.”

Likewise…Have a good day and life. Parakalo, Brother Don Camillo Galifianakis :}

Enjoy some more photos from the many Gigabits that have been captured during this wonderful journey...

James Douglas Morrison (December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971) 

Red Colorado
Vibrant Detroit Street Art
Exit Sandman 

Latest travel companion in a shared 1904 house in Venice

Queen of Williamsburg : Leonora Russo
This cute lady made sure I got the spelling of her name right because "otherwise I won't find it." She thought I knew who she was, I Googled her later.
Fear and Loathe on a bright Sunday 

L.A Women Post Sunday Afternoon

Some Brooklyn Dood I had to shoot
Sousa, the rescued Egyptian kitten who's mesmerized by water
My Venice Tribe in Full Throttle

Meet Skittles, aka Narges — Marina Del Rey
May I take a photo of you ladies?
Yes sure.
Now show me those gorgeous smiles.

— Venice Boardwalk
The Dream House on the lake where I'll be spending my time writing novels ;}
the Canada geese in Sycamore, Illinois as they stop to rest while migrating southwards to North America, some even make it to Mexico. 

The Mighty Denver Public Library
Artsy Arty Art — Venice Beach

Old man take a look at my life, I'm a lot like you — Williamsburg, N.Y
Befriend Thy Demons

Lost and Found...In The Wild

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.”
― Anaïs Nin,
The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 7: 1966-1974

EARLIER POST: Things I Couldn't Quite Understand After Being On The Road For Seven Months
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