Volume 50, Issue 10 - October 2015


A Greek Tragedy???

by Lyle R. Hill

I could feel it as soon as I slid into the passenger seat of his sleek black Mercedes Benz. Something was wrong, seriously wrong. The tone of his voice, the look in his eye, and the demeanor of his persona … I could tell something was amiss. But I wasn’t going to pry. Good friends don’t do that. At least not right away. So off we drove in silence on what could only be described as a beautiful mid-August Saturday afternoon.

I have admired the oft quoted and seldom disputed Greek philosopher Louis Garbisopolous (aka Lou Garbis) for more than 30 years. We met in the mid-80s when both of us were trying to carve out careers for ourselves. Mine was in the architectural glass and metal business while Lou toiled in the insurance and surety bonding business. It did not take me long to appreciate Lou for his analytical prowess as well as his innate ability to read and quickly understand people of all walks. We did a great deal of business together, and Lou never failed to amaze me. He became well-known in the construction industry and developed quite a following. We traveled together and despite the fact that his driving almost killed us twice on one particular trip through Nevada, I came to fully trust and respect him … and still do to this day. He is charming, witty and deeply philosophical in nature, as many of Greek heritage often are. He could speak with knowledge and understanding on the topics of history, religion and politics. His philosophical teachings are widely accepted and he is regularly quoted by many a writer and speaker, myself included. People throughout the surety bonding, insurance and construction field know and admire him. He is a remarkable individual.

On this particular day, we were on our way to U.S. Cellular Field on Chicago’s near south side to watch the Chicago White Sox play the New York Yankees. This was not the first time Lou and I had taken in a sporting event together. Lou was himself a very fine athlete in his younger years, and I was even proud of the fact that he had once bruised and scarred my body for life in a basketball game some years back in Lombard, Ill. My lumps and scratches were a badge of honor and, when he fouled out of the game just a few minutes into the second quarter, I was almost sad to see him go. On this fine August evening, Lou had gotten the tickets for the Sox game and would drive while I was to pay for the parking, food and drink.

From my house to the park—a drive that took about 45 minutes—Lou said virtually nothing. When we arrived at the parking lot, the attendant asked for $6. I handed Lou a twenty expecting ten back in change. Without any hesitation, he passed the twenty to the man outside his window and said “keep the change.” Lou is like that. Generous to a fault!

As we found our seats and the game started, I could take no more. I was starving, but I had to find out what was troubling my good friend.

“Lou,” I finally said, “what’s wrong? What’s troubling you?”

“My life is ruined, Lyle. All is lost.”

My mind began to race. What kind of a problem could he be facing? Was his beautiful and talented wife Phyllis ill? Could one of his highly accomplished children be in trouble?

“Lou,” I offered, “let me buy you a gyro sandwich. They always perk you up.”

“Not tonight, Lyle. It won’t help.”

“Lou, you’re killing me. Please tell me what’s wrong.”

With a deep sigh he began. “Lyle, as you know, my family came to your country from Greece when I was but a lad. For practical reasons we shortened our name when we settled into a west side neighborhood where the Greek population was dominant. I worked at my uncle’s Greek delicatessen and grocery and attended the Greek Cathedral in the neighborhood. I have studied Greek philosophers and the history of that country. I married a wonderful Greek woman and have immersed myself in all things Greek since my youth.”

“You sure you don’t want that gyro, Lou?”

He waved his big right hand at me and continued. “But now, after all these years, I find out that I am not Greek at all.”

“What? How do you know this, Lou?”

“DNA testing, Lyle, and it is 100 percent accurate. Do you know what this means? I speak Greek, I lecture on Greek history and culture. I live in a Greek world. What am I going to do?”

“Lou, does anyone else know about this?”

“I have told no one of this until just now, Lyle.”

“Then this is not a problem at all, Lou. Most of us live our lives thinking or pretending to be something we are not. Delusion and confusion are everywhere. And besides, we live in a time when a person can be whatever they want to be whether it makes any sense or not. It’s almost impossible to separate the pretenders and wanna-bees from the real deals, Lou.

“So let it go. Your heart and mind are Greek and your soul is, too. And you’ll always be Greek to me, Lou.”

“And my secret is safe with you, Lyle?”

“Of course, Lou. Who am I going to tell? By the way, what did the test conclude?”

“I am mostly Italian, Lyle.”

“Interesting. So, want some pizza?”

the author

Lyle R. Hill is the managing director of Keytech North America, a company providing research and technical services for the glass and metal industry. Hill has more than 40 years of experience in the glass and metal industry and can be reached at lhill@glass.com. You can read his blog on Wednesdays at lyleblog.usglassmag.com.

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