Art and the Greek Economic Crisis

Art and the Greek Economic Crisis

Although many of my books are set in Mexico, and I write frequently about current events there, the years I spent in Greece also live in my heart. So I can’t help worrying about how the Greek economic crisis will impact the friends who still live there.

The crisis grows

CNN and Fortune and the Wall Street Journal can explain what is going on in Greece better than a mystery author, of course. But I know that Europe is tired of bailing out Greece’s years of poor economic decisions. As a result, Greece is likely to default on the billions it owes.

Deadlines are looming. Greek banks have closed, the Greek stockmarket is in a death spiral, and tourists are being advised that their credit cards might not be welcome because people need cash now. Watch CNN’s coverage here. Fortune magazine predicted the current trouble back in April.

Greece’s new government was elected on a “no knuckling under” to Europe platform, which was popular and patriotic. But the consequences of not building a bailout partnership with the rest of Europe were possibly not sufficiently understood.

Related post: One heart, three tragedies

The art flows

One friend who is in Greece is Amalia Melis, a writer and artist whose Aegean Arts Circle writing workshops are held annually on the Greek island of Andros. She has channeled her energies into sculptures made of found items that symbolize what is going on in the country. I keep promising to help her set up a website to showcase her absorbing works, which have been shown in juried shows in both the US and Europe, as well as her writing and photography.

She recently gifted me with one of her sculptures, an assemblage she called “Carmen’s Mystery.”

sculpture by Amalia Melis

The curved pieces of iron are old bedsprings. The disk in the center is perforated metal and I wonder where it came from; what curious bit of European machinery it once enabled. I love the contrast between the flash of the shiny strip of steel and the old darkened disk. The bead looks to be tiger eye; a nod to Detective Emilia Cruz’s fighting spirit, perhaps. The overall circle is not wholly complete, smaller circles branch off and create more motion and intrigue.

No matter how crazy the Greek economic crisis gets, when I look at this piece of imagination, I have to believe that the talent and spirit of the Greeks will carry them through.

Related post: 10 Ways to Think About Greece

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Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.


Greek economic crisis

One Heart, Three Tragedies

One Heart, Three Tragedies

Three places I love are bleeding and all I can do is watch and pray.


As many readers know, my years in Mexico and Central America provided the impetus for my mystery and thriller novels and part of my heart will always be in Mexico. But the country has been rocked by the horrific story of the September 2014 disappearance of 43 students from the rural teacher training college in Ayotzinapa, “a college with a tradition of left-wing political activism,” according to BBC reporting.

flag printAuthorities in Mexico City say the students were rounded up by police “allegedly on the orders of the mayor of the nearby town of Iguala, “who wanted to prevent them from disrupting a speech his wife was giving at a public event that evening.” The students were then handed over to a gang known for violence. Gang members killed the students, burned the bodies, and discarded the remains in trash bags. One student has been identified from the remains. No closure for the other 42 families as of yet, despite more arrests.

Gang members, the mayor, his wife, and the police chief have all been arrested. Now there is a call for an investigation into the army. Meanwhile, the hashtag #YaMeCanse (I am tired) has become a rallying cry against Mexico’s drug violence and the mounting numbers of missing.

Related post: Entitlement, Mexico Style

If all this wasn’t enough, as federal investigators were combing the hillsides of the state of Guerrero (where the Emilia Cruz mystery series is set) they kept finding other mass graves. How much is too much!?

Surely there will be an end to the violence someday. In the meantime, I’m praying for answers.


I also have wonderful memories of living in Greece and regularly correspond with friends who are still there. In fact, Greece is where I wrote the first, 800-page (!) draft of The Hidden Light of Mexico City. We treated the crazy Greek bureaucracy, radical protests, and garbage strikes with humor. But in time we realized these events reflected systemic failure.

broken old potteryThis coming Sunday, Greeks will take to the polls in yet another drama related to the country’s ongoing financial crisis and overwrought political scene. Riding high is Alexis Tsipras, from the far radical left Syriza Party which would do away with the austerity measures Greece was forced to adopt in order to get billions in bailout money from the EU. The Wall Street Journal reported that the already beseiged Greek economy is in a tailspin over a potential Syriza win at the polls.

Should Tsipras win and make good on his promises to walk away from Greece’s promises to the EU, it would mean an epic financial crisis. But maybe he’s got support because austerity has simply exhausted the Greek spirit. The Economist reports that “Although the economy is now growing again, Greek voters remain understandably enraged that GDP should have shrunk by almost 20% since 2010 and that unemployment is still as high as 26%.” According to UK newspaper The Guardian, “Many Greeks will be inclined to vote for the insurgents as much out of hopelessness as helplessness.”

No matter what the outcome, I’m praying for restraint.


I went to college for a year in Paris, long before there were euros and the internet. My best friend and I lived in the 17th Arondissment–the high rent district. It was a year of important life experiences, set against the backdrop of the City of Lights.

Girl Meets Paris book coverBut the news coming out of Paris this month has been nothing like that. Terrorist rampages, manhunts, sleeper cells, mass shootings. Like so many others, I’ve been glued to the news, remembering locations and events that brought me so much joy, and shocked by what today’s  journalists are reporting.

I’ve been tinkering with a memoir, based on my letters, of my year in Paris. “Girl Meets Paris” captures all the joy and excitement of discovering Paris.

Maybe publishing could be part of the healing process, because I’m praying for recovery.


Art and the Greek Economic Crisis

Celebrate Greek Culture Now More Than Ever

Greece has overspent itself to the brink of destruction and angry citizens are showing their contempt for further austerity measures by firebombing downtown Athens.  Talk continues of defaults and the downfall of a country and the entire eurozone as well.

But even if the country’s national institutions wobble, Greek culture will survive the current unpleasantness in Athens. Here are some reasons why:

1.  The Mediterranean Diet   The heart-healthy Greek menu emphasizes fish, olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables and a splash of wine for good measure.  According to the Mayo Clinic “most if not all major scientific organizations encourage healthy adults to adapt a style of eating like that of the Mediterranean diet for prevention of major chronic diseases.” Read the full article about the benefits of eating Greek here.

2.  Kiosks   There’s a tiny outdoor convenience store every few blocks in Athens where you can buy snacks,  newspapers, bus tickets, an emergency bottle of olive oil, etc.  The kids can be sent down the street with a few euros to buy an ice cream bar and Dad can stop for a small bottle of whiskey to soothe a bad day at the office.  Friends can meet for a quick chat, read the headlines and get a sports drink when the heat roasts marble buildings to a sparkling white and all the fresh oranges and eggplants you bought at the neighborhood laiki open air market start getting heavy on the walk home.  Maybe now isn’t the time to open that designer dress shop in Kolonaki but the kiosks will still be a central part of life this time next year, too.

3.  The lemonade at the base of the Acropolis   You came to see the famous Parthenon, step in Socrates’s footsteps at the Pnyx, imagine the chariot races and salute Hadrian’s arch.  But how did democracy thrive in this heat! The antidote is the amazingly crisp, fresh lemonade sold at the ordinary-looking concession stand at the base of the Acropolis. Buy one–at whatever today’s cost–after your trek up to the Parthenon. And be careful on the way down. There aren’t safety rails and Greece probably doesn’t have the money to install them now.

4.  Storytellers  Writing and storytelling are quintessential aspects of Greek culture. This proud heritage is being carried on by the Aegean Arts Circle. Writer, sculptor and all-around Renaissance woman Amalia Melis runs the Circle which hosts an annual writer’s workshop series on the island of Andros.  Workshops are led by notable authors who help both experienced and novice writers polish fiction manuscripts. This summer’s workshop will be led by Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler whose “. . . workshop will focus on the fundamentals of the creative process for any fiction writers, beginning or advanced, who aspire to create enduring literature.”

5.  The Greek alphabet   Fraternities, sororities, astronomers, interior designers, and the electronics industry (Coming Soon! The beta version!) are among the notables who all embrace the timeless quality of the Greek alphabet.

6.  This. Is. Sparta.  Okay, okay. Yes, it’s an internet meme and King Leonidas kept slipping in an accent that suggested he’d been thrown out of his fair share of pubs, but Hollywood loves Greek history. Think Troy.  Alexander the Great.  Beautiful scenery, low budget costumes and pre-written plots.  And then there is the fabulously genuine Nia Vardarlos who singlehandedly brought Greek traditions of family, food, and loud arguments to the silver screen.  And made us laugh.

7.  Ohi Day  There is a Greek resilience best illustrated by a unique holiday which celebrates the day in 1940 that Greek Prime Minister Metaxas refused to allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory and occupy certain unspecified “strategic locations.” The ultimatum was delivered by the Italian ambassador on behalf of Germany and urban legend has it that Metaxas answered with just the word “ohi,” or “no” in Greek. The Axis forces invaded shortly thereafter. Forced to the brink of starvation, Greece barely survived the rest of World War II and its chaotic political aftermath, best captured in My Brother Michael by Leon Uris.

So tonight, I’m celebrating with My Life In Ruins, and some feta and olives. I’ll watch the news tomorrow.

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Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.


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