Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tales of the Piano Bar, Part 6: Don't Lose Your Head Over the Holidays

San Juan Bautista, Joan de Joanes (cir.1560)
Pentecost falls fifty days after Easter, and in Greece it is always a huge holiday weekend.  It was celebrated last Sunday and this year’s crowds on Mykonos were no exception.  But this isn’t about Pentecost.  Nor is it about Easter.  It’s a tale told by Jody Duncan who, together with Nikos Hristodulakis, own Mykonos’ Montparnasse Piano Bar.  Jody would like you to THINK his story has something to do with those most holy of days to the Greek Orthodox faithful, but I prefer to consider it simply further evidence of the sorts of minds putting the olive in your martini or umbrella in your mai-tai from behind the bar at the La Cage aux Folles of the Aegean.  Jody, you’re on.

Jeffrey, this story is entirely appropriate for the season as it begins on Easter and ends around Pentecost.

A few years back we decided to have friends over to our house for Easter dinner rather than following our usual practice of being guests in their homes.  But one friend insisted on contributing the lamb and he would not take no for an answer.   So, a day or two before Easter, Adonis the Greek appeared at our door bearing his gift of an entire lamb, complete with its head wrapped separately in newspaper.

Okay, I get it, if you’re hosting Easter dinner in Greece there must be lamb.  No ifs, no ands, no buts.  But heads?  Please.

I couldn't bring myself to cook that thing, and didn't even know how or where to begin getting a head ready for the oven.  I did the only thing I could think of.  I stuck it in the freezer.  A non frost-free one I might add.

A couple of months later, in June around the time of Pentecost, I thawed the freezer and came across a parcel wrapped in newspaper.  I’d forgotten all about it.  Inside I found what looked to be the frosted, frozen head of John the Baptist.

That was all that remained of that poor unlucky lamb.  And it was my fault it had ended up here rather than in its rightful place on the Easter table.  I had to find some way to redeem myself.  It was still early in the morning for Mykonos—around noon—and the performers crashing at our place from the night before were still asleep.

It was the perfect opportunity for my giving the little lamb a proper send off.  Phyllis Pastore, our headline singer and an institution on the island, was just starting to wake up.   I went to her bedroom and stood in the doorway, balancing the lamb’s head on my left shoulder.  She was ignoring me and so I started softly humming a tune.

I waited until she’d opened her eyes but had not yet grasped the meaning of my visit.  At that instant I stepped forward into her bedroom and in my best Paul Anka impression blared out the lyric I’d been humming, “Put your head on my shoulder…”

I was so proud of myself.

Phyllis had another view of things.  She leaped out of bed with a scream that nearly brought the poor lamb back to life.

I was laughing so hard I was beginning to think the other head on my shoulder was laughing too.

Phyllis drew a deep breath to compose herself, and in a perfectly blasé Ethel Merman sort of way said, “Jody, if I were you, I’d keep the new one.” 

[Ed. note:  I always liked Phyllis’ style.]

Time for a drink, I think.  Here’s what we at the Piano Bar call the Flirtini.  It's a lovely champagne cocktail, light in taste and perfect for warm summer evenings.

In a champagne flute, put one ounce elderflower liqueur (St. Germaine is the most well known brand) and 1/2 ounce lemon juice. Top with champagne and voilà you have a refreshing cocktail—and it’s gentle as a lamb.

 Remember, that tail is not shaken so if your tastes run to tales that are I suggest SHAKEN: Stories for Japan. 



  1. Heads up, Jeffrey! Me duele la cabeza hoy. A lovely post Easter tale; can't wait until Phyllis reads it. Of course, I say that knowing she's thousands of miles away!

  2. "Put your head on my shoulder"?? Is Phyllis thousands of miles away because she is annoyed with the frat boy mentality? Actually, that scene and the line are very funny.

    She did have a great line,too.

    Excellent segue into everyone's favorite book of short stories. Would Jody and Nick be willing to put a bookrack by the door so that customers, coming or going, would buy the book? Greece has certainly had its share of natural disasters.


  3. Beth, once again your comment makes me smile and think. Greece has both natural and unnatural disasters. The question is whether a rack by the door should be employed for books or politicians.

    Jody, No hablo espanol. Which is along the lines of what my position shall be to Phyllis should I feel her reaching out for me across the sea.


  4. Thank you, Jeffrey, for starting my day with not one but two out-loud laughs.

    Here's a freezer story. My mother went to the store for meat and found herself standing in line behind a wonderful actor named Lee. J. Cobb. My mom had acted in movies when she was a kid and always claimed to be blase about movie stars, but about three weeks later I heard her laughing in the kitchen and went it to see the leg of lamb on the sink and the white butcher's paper in which it had been wrapped, on which she had carefully labeled in red crayon LEE J. COBB. That thing hung in our kitchen for a couple of years.

  5. Love the story. I think of you whenever I hear of Greece on the news, which is almost daily right now. (One of those unnatural disasters?) How are you all affected by it, if at all?

  6. Oh great. Tonight I am almost certain to have a nightmare about finding Lee J. Cobb's head in my freezer, at which point he starts belting a tune in Ethel Merman's voice.


    PS. Elderflower liqueur?

  7. From one elder flower to another, Lenny, you epitomize the age-old American favorite, Corn on the Cobb. Thank you, Tim, for the assist:)

    Lil, I have a lot to say on the current situation in Greece and have expressed my views in print, on-air, and on-line in the US and Europe. But with all the brutal news coverage these days about what's going on over here...and it's saddening...I decided it's best not to use Murder is Everywhere to pile on, no matter how insightful, unique, and non-fattening my views may be.

    Instead I'm going for a softer, gentler view here of the many wonderful things about Greece getting little if any play these days. At least until the bastards really p*** me off. [If necessary, check Dan's post yesterday for the meaning of P***.]