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ITHAKA ON THE HORIZON: A Greek-American Journey



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26 September 2006



Fascinating stuff, Stavros. Here’s a bit more on Johnny’s son, Shuggie Otis – or John Veliotes Jr. – who I spent the afternoon looking into. Shuggie is a hugely talented musician, playing – most notably in the 1970s – jazz funk and blues, something of a cult figure who for some reason fell by the wayside. One admirer says: ‘Shuggie Otis should have been a West Coast superstar, a genius, a musical wizard of the highest order.’
His most famous song is Strawberry Letter 23 which, in the version by the Brothers Johnson, was prominently used by Quentin Tarantino in Jackie Brown. It is a beautiful song, and Shuggie’s version is more beautiful than the Brothers Johnson version. I managed to download 10-12 Shuggie songs and, even though it’s not the sort of music I normally listen to, the talent, quality, artistry and sensitivity of the man is obvious. His music is sensual and erotic. It’s the sort of music Hermo should put on when he has a lady round to his pad, just in case reading Marcus Aurelius to her doesn’t do the trick.

A Shuggie link to go with the one you gave:

There’s plenty on Shuggie on the net.


Thanks for the link. Amazing guys, both father and son. You have motivated me to get my son to download some of his stuff. Won't he be surprised? I await your Cassavetes post.
PS What did you think of the Tikas and Dilboy posts?


Greeks always do extraordinary things, surpass themselves and their circumstances. It’s in our DNA. We’re revolutionaries. Dilboy and Tikas are in this mould.
Last night, while I was surfing, I came across this story on Dilboy

I’m not that familiar with US medals of valour, but did notice when I went to the Arlington cemetery website
that Congressional Medal of Honor recipients form a pretty exclusive club.

As for Tikas, love of justice is also in a Greek’s DNA; a willingness to sacrifice everything for what we regard as just constitutes a large part of our personal philotimo.

I’ve a novel lying round the house by Harry Mark Petrakis, called Days of Vengeance, which I’ve not read, but I think is about Cretan miners in Western America and may well deal with the period and events you talk about in your post. I don’t know.

Also, Stavros, I’ve been continuing to listen to the Shuggie Otis stuff I downloaded earlier and this guy is seriously, seriously good, a wonderful discovery. Shuggie also features on a terrific Mos Def track called Blue Black Jack. Mention this to your son and I bet you’ll go up in his estimation no end.


The Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients form a VERY exclusive club, similar to holders of the VC (Victoria Cross). I've seen General's salute Sargeants wearing the little blue ribbon. Most are given posthumously. Only two awarded since Vietnam. As far as I'm concerned Sgt Hercules Korgis who I wrote about in a post called "An Army of One" deserved a MOH. Another Greek-American, Sgt Chris Carr (Caraberis) won the MOH fighting in Italy during World War II. Read his citation:
I haven't read Petrakis since I was a teenager although I recommend him highly as a Greek American author. Days of Vengeance looks very interesting. I will order it and add it to my pile of books to read (including one of his on the Greek War of Independence which I've linked to) Currently reading Sailing Byzantium by Colin Wells. Good read.
Speaking of the Greek sense of justice, you need to read about the uprising among the Cretan miners against a Greek strongman known as Leonidas Skliris in Utah, which is the location for the Petrakis novel (it may provide a sense of perspective. Read this article:

I'm listening to Greek radio while I write this, my older son, a HS senior is quite an accomplished musician and singer. He loves all kinds of music including Greek. He's at work right now. Maybe he will be suitably impressed by me throwing Shuggie's name around like I know the guy. Sometimes the old man surprises him, sometimes he just rolls his eyes.

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  • Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you're destined for. But don't hurry the journey at all. Better if it lasts for years, so you're old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you've gained on the way, not expecting Ithaka to make you rich. Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you wouldn't have set out. She has nothing left to give you now. And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you. Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. C. P. Cavafy


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