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Introduction to Matt's Chicago Website

I can't begin to count the times when some charactor has come up to me on the street in Athens and asked where I was from and upon hearing that I was from the USA told me about his cousin or brother or uncle in Chicago. I thought to myself that this must be some kind of scam. All these people can't have a relative in Chicago unless they are all related and talking about the same person. Maybe Chicago is the only place they know in America. Maybe it is because I tell them I am from New York and so they say they have a relative in Chicago and if I said I was from Chicago they would say they have a relative in New York just so as not to take the chance that I will know the name of the non-existant person and we get into a whole conversation about him when actually the guy does not know anyone in Chicago, he just wants me to go to his bar so I will buy champagne for some hot Ukranian girl and be forced to pay 150 euros or have the shit kicked out of me. Anyway it became kind of a joke to us Greek-Americans living in Athens.
"You are American! I have a brother in America!"
"Yes, we know. Chicago."
"How did you know this?"
Being high school students who think they know everything it never occurred to us that maybe there were a whole lot of Greeks in Chicago and people were actually telling us the truth and not just trying to get something from us. We did have a few Greek-American friends from Chicago. Greg Fotos who's nickname was 'Gangi', or Theo Harduvel and Dean Mouzakiotis, but none of them ever hinted at Chicago being a Greek town. Maybe we never asked.

It was not until the summer of 2010 when I became aware of the construction of the Greek-American Museum in Chicago that I came to the realization that maybe there was a place in America that was full of Greeks, who were not on strike, who were not demonstrating because the EU was not letting them retire at 57 and they would no longer be getting paid for 14 months of work while only doing about three. Maybe a place where Greeks didn't hang out all day in coffee shops complaining, but instead were out working to make things better for themselves and their community. Maybe there was a place where Greek youth got jobs and worked hard or studied in universities that were not asylums for junkies and anarchists, and went on to become leaders. Maybe there was a place where Greeks were proud of their heritage and did not have the inferiority complex that makes Athenians put down anyone who is not an Athenian or 100% Greek. OK but even if Chicago has all this what about the Aegean sea? You can complain all you like about the modern Athenians but the islands and the sea enable you to put up with a lot of frustration and abuse and Chicago does not have the sea. Or does it?

There is a theory about Greek immigration, that the best, the brightest and the bravest left the country for foreign shores to work hard and send money back to the family. During the years when Greece was an impoverished country it was kept afloat by those who came to America, or Canada or Australia. Those left behind were those who already had jobs, were wealthy, had political and family connections and a handful that knew how to survive in any conditions whether it was by intelligence or ruthlessness along with those who just stayed because they had no desire to leave and nowhere to go to. It may be for this reason that Greece is an impovrished and corrupt country while the Greeks in the USA have become successful through hard work and education (with the exception of those guys in The Wire.) OK. I am generalizing. Not all Greeks in the US are honest and hard working and they don't all go to the best colleges and graduate at the top of their class. But the fact is that the Greeks who came to America were enterprising and worked hard to build a better life for their families. Sure there were some who failed, some who returned to Greece after a year or two of struggle because to them living away from Greece was like being in exile. But those who stayed created generation after generation of Greek-Americans, many who have lost that thread that would eventually lead them back to their homeland when it was time to retire. These are the Greeks who realize that Greece is not just a place, it is a state of mind, a community, and it does not matter if you are in Athens, Chania, Astoria, Tarpon Springs, Melbourne, Toronto or Chicago.

So after a summer in Greece I spent a few days in my hot and muggy town of Carrboro, North Carolina before taking a one hour flight to Chicago to see what kind of world the Greeks had created in the windy city.

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