Tales of a wandering lesbian


My grandfather celebrated his 89th birthday last weekend.  89.  Wow.

My grandfather is many things.  He is a Pear Harbor Survivor and a carpenter.  He loves trains.  He makes train whistles and turtle-stools, and all manner of fabulous things.   He is a tinkerer and creator of the highest order.   He is Greek and French, though the Greek is the part we really talk about.  He is even a past master of the Masons.  Most of all, he is a story-teller.

He has a story for EVERYTHING.  Sometimes he has two or three stories.  (For example, there are 2 stories that are told every time we eat asparagus. )  Once in a great while, he comes up with a new one that my sister and I haven’t heard – probably becaue we’re now old enough to hear the more racey ones.  Those  are always excellent.

My favorites, and I think his, are folk stories he must have heard growing up, of a man called Nostradin Hodja.

As an adult I learned that “Hodja” means “Mullah,” but to me, it was his last name.  The stories are a kind of mix of fable and dirty limerick, usually showing Nostradin as a fool.  I always saw him as a kind of uncle, and the stories of my grandfather’s making.  Maybe 15 years ago, my grandfather made recordings of the recited stories in his own voice.  They are gems.  I remember spending hours with him on his computer making a drawing of Nostradin in Microsoft Paint for the cassette jacket cover.

So, in honor of my grandfather, here is one of my favorite Nostradin stories.  This is one of two stories that is told in my family whenever someone spills food on themselves.

‘There was a great feast happening in the village where Nostradin Hodja lived.  Everyone in the village was preparing the town square.  There would be very important  dignitaries at the feast, and Nostradin was excited to get to meet them.

When the time came for him to go to the feast, he got dressed and entered the town square.  Everyone from the village was there.  There were beautiful high tables set on a stage above the villagers, where the dignitaries were seated.  As he approached the high tables, Nostradin was stopped by attendants and told that he could sit in the lower tables with the other villagers.

Well, this did not suit Nostradin at all.  He gazed at the dignitaries dressed in their fine silk robes and fancy turbins.  He looked down at his rough wool tunic and felt his ordinary fez.  “I know!” cried Nostradin, and he rushed from the square.

When he arrived home, he found his finest silk robes and grandest turbin.  He even put on his shoes that turned up at the toes, and set off toward the square once again.

This time, when he approached the high tables, he was greeted by the attendants who welcomed him to sit with the dignitaries.

He enjoyed a lovely feast of roast lamb, rosemary potatoes, glittering fruits and the finest wines – all in the company of the dignitaries.

At the end of the feast, Nostradin took some food from his plate and began rubbing it on his robes, in his turbin, and even across his shoes that turned up at the toes.  “Nostradin!  What are you doing?!” cried one of the attendants.  “Well,” said Nostradin, “it is these clothes that got me my seat at the feast, and they should enjoy the feast as much as I!”‘

Ask me some time and I’ll tell you the other story for when you spill food on yourself.

Thanks Grandpa!  Happy Birthday!

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August 6, 2009   2 Comments