The Grass is Not Always Greeker on the Other Side
September 12, 2005
Sometimes visiting other Greek communities across the country makes you better appreciate the Greek community you have at home. After a disappointingly slow summer here, we were looking forward to the change of scenery over Labor Day Weekend in Chicago. Despite having been to many Greek destinations over the years for YAL events, we hadnít been to Chicago in over 15 years, never having experienced Greektown or the freedom of being able to go out on any night of the weekend and know that youíll find Greek young adults regardless of any organized Greek Night or other event being on the calendar. Still though, even though the quantity of the Greek life was greater in Chicago, the quality arguably remains the same as in DC or any other smaller community, and in some respects Greek life in DC is actually better.
Now many of you both from DC and from larger Greek-American cities like Chicago, New York, or Boston are probably sitting there thinking that we are such blind DC loyalists that we must be off our rocker to say that the quality of Greek life in a town of only six churches (and thatís if you count Annapolis), which relies on a great number of young adults from Baltimore to make a capacity crowd at all but the smallest of venues. Bigger isnít necessarily better when talking about a Greek community. Size matters in having enough Greek young adults to sustain at least one event a month. Events are the measuring stick for all but the biggest Greek communities. On any given night in Chicago or New York there are probably a handful of clubs that would see at least as many Greeks walk through their doors as a typical Greek Night in DC. But too many choices and so many people can sometimes be a little overwhelming.
Over the three-day weekend in Chicagoís Greektown we visited a kafeneio, a bar, and the bouzoukia seeing more young, fun-loving Greeks than weíd seen in an entire summer in DC. After the novelty wore off though, we realized that the Greeks in Chicago really didnít have it much better than we do in DC. There were just as many people spending more time looking at the door than paying attention to who was in the room. There was as much of the same old Greek music thatís been played in clubs since 2000 and some new mixes that hopefully donít make their way East in the coming months. And there were just as many people, particularly singles in their late 20s and early 30s, who were just as tired of relying on these scenes to meet other Greeks. Everyoneís patience with any particular venue was shortened with the ability to go anywhere else to find Greeks within a few small blocks, leading to the thought that the grass is always greener or Greeker somewhere else. Really all this choice only succeeded in creating a merry-go-round of Greeks going from venue to venue each time complaining that the place was either dead or that it seemed to be full of the same old people, not realizing that the people who were there had just moved on to another place themselves.
Contrast this scene with your typical weekend in DC. If thereís no scheduled event, you can go about your life and sleep well that night knowing you didnít miss anything in the Greek community. You can hang out with your non-Greek friends, you can stay in and do laundry, you can do anything you want and know that you didnít miss out on meeting or hanging out with any Greeks. In fact if you play your cards right and do anything else besides staying in, you could have a chance to randomly run into another Greek youíve never met before. When there is an event, you know that this is where more than likely every other Greek in town will be. Itís a fact in these smaller communities that if you donít see a particular Greek at an event (assuming that itís an age-appropriate affair), itís a pretty good sign that they really donít want to have anything to do with the community or those in it anyway.
As excuses for Greeks in DC to get together increase in the coming weeks, those of you in DC should appreciate how lucky you are to have your Greek social life simply planned out for you through the focused efforts of the community. For those of you visiting DC, remember that a smaller community notices and welcomes newcomers. If youíre tired of the Greek scene in DC then by all means, take a weekend away, go to Chicago, New York or anywhere else on an average weekend (i.e., not Clearwater on Memorial Day or anyplace else on any specific day that will skew your view of what Greek life should be Ė note: a place is never as fun when a convention isnít in town or when itís not March 25th), enjoy the anonymity that a larger Greek community provides, soak in the variety of atmospheres that will be afforded to you in one weekend or just one night, and remember that youíll still have a half-way decent Greek community to come back to when itís all said and done.