Up the Greek Without a Paddle

Copyright © 2011 Robert G. Ferrell

rgferrell@gmail.com

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Your instructor, Mr. Peffifinkle, could not be here today owing to a nasty case of indictment. He has asked me to fill in for him and kindly provided a sturdy shovel for that purpose. Today's lesson was scheduled to be units of distance, but I couldn't find a yardstick (the grass was too high in the yard) so we will be discussing Greek mythology, instead. Please take out your #2 iPencils and narrow-ruled iPads, and we will begin. The Greeks were a bit paranoid, as they were followed closely by the Romans, who had misplaced their map and couldn't remember how to get home. Besides being a little jumpy, the Greeks (or, as their neighbors the Etruscans referred to them, "those sandal-wearing sissies in bed sheets") were avid theophiles. Many's the idyllic Greek afternoon spent dreaming up new gods and goddesses to serve as patrons for every conceivable trade, art, emotion, calling, or household pest. The Greeks had a penchant for theogenesis (if that's not a word, it should be) that was matched only by their penchant for bacchanalia. A casual stroll through the streets of Athens was bound to turn up at least two or three “godmakers” scribing furiously at wooden desks wedged between itinerant philosophers, prolifically churning out new deities on demand. A name, a few rituals, some basic worship ground rules (fond of salamanders, only accepts sacrifices threaded through terra-cotta napkin rings when the moon is at quarter gibbous) and a new holy personage was ready for veneration. Some of them did double or even triple duty—one goddess might be the patron, for example, of saturated fat, farm implements, and inflamed follicles, while her twin brother (they were born of the clandestine union between the goddess of spinach salad and a mortal raised to demigod status after ridding the Olympus lawn of crabgrass) was the god of down escalators and that sticky sap that sometimes oozes out of firewood when you're trying to impress a date. This brings us inexplicably to Greek food, which in my experience is a curious conglomeration of little bits of unidentifiable meat blended with too many ingredients into a sort of sludge-like puree and then packed into rolls of stuff peeled off a tree stump. It may also be that I haven't actually had any authentic Greek food, in which case I invite you to ignore the preceding and just read the part about Greek gods again. Greek cheese and milk seem to be made almost wholly from creatures not traditionally employed in the dairy industry, at least in my neck of the woods, but despite this they are still quite tasty. We appear to have strayed somewhat from our topic, dear students. I hope you won't hold it against me, or Mr. Peffifinkle, God bless him. After all, a myth is as good as a mile. Class dismissed. Please drop your fig leaves by the door on your way out.

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