To begin its official (on the world wide web!) second season (working title: Trials and Ventures), Stoned Kitchen wants to officially congratulate our Pepper! It’s Pepper’s birthday. Here in eSKay we are celebrating by…. (thinking…..)

This is a daft idea. I’m going to just call Pepper up, which was my original plan anyway. (I’m savvier with Whatsapp-en these days, and that fact is by and large due to Pepper!
(Excuse me: must remember how to add a “read more” button…)

Done! (I’ll deal with the pic /graphic /look aspects Pepper taught me later 🙂 SMILEY EMOJI))

True Friendship: Pepper showing me how
to use filters in zoom at some point during the Pandemic

I guess what I’d like to do most now is just thank Pepper and give her a tangible reminder of what a delightful spice she adds to this world. Feeling down? A dash of Pepper and your spirits are lifted, except when Pep’s feeling blue and down, down, down. And even then, you will get higher anyway because Pepper’s the kind of person that you want to help feel better ASAP!

Oh Pepper! I will never forget how Doc Tom tossed all of your plans into the wind and booked tickets to Living to stand by Dan and me during my Big Day In Court—and he did it all because well, he could not resist the sorrowful, sad look in your eyes, you wonder – (ful)- woman you! (And gorgeous in and out with it!)

I’m eternally grateful, Pepper, for all you have done for my life, including this space here. (Without you, this blogcast or whatever it is would not exist!) Every time I visit it, I think of you and see your talent and spirit all over the place and in myself, too.

THANK you again for the screenshot of “Miamou and Cat me!” And who but you would make Stoned Kitchen a “Dan and Haley Forever” Holzbret?—Or present me with miniature handcuffs? Oh Pepper, just like magic-fairy dust, your essence and presence add shininess, wonder, joy and beauty to all the lives around you!

Hip hip Hurray to our dear amazing Pepper! May our lives be graced and spiced with her many, many, many delicious years to come and beyond!
Now celebrate your birthday Pepper-girl and know that Stoned Kitchen is sending lots and lots of love, kisses, hugs, best wishes and alles, alles Lieb zu dir und deinen! Xronia pola and Yiammas from Haley, Dan, Miamou and the locals in Stoned Kitchen!

In lieu of cake this year: A memory lane trip back to a Girls’ Day with Pepper in Heraklion and the luscious ending to our late-lunch-for-two in that divine location overlooking the Venetian Harbor! (Let’s do that again soon!)
“Zoomed in” on the Venetian Harbour in Heraklion”

And here is your birthday present, Pepper, re: your request once upon a time for “more of that wonderful stuff.” (I wanted to package it in a flipbook for you, but….

Miamou: She’s forgotten how….

Stoned Kitchen, or how a slightly illegal po(t)cast helped save Greece

Reminder: (aka CYA/ Disclaimer)

This excerpt is from a work of reality-inspired fiction.

That just means that some of the following is true, whilst other parts might become so, and if not, they will just remain figments of imagination. Regardless—and as I told the cops John, Nick, and Sep on the day they arrested me,

I take full responsibility for my mistakes (including typos) HZ/GRBK

An Excerpt for Pepper, in which among other things, Haley gives her insights on some Cretan History and the Prosecution a little lesson about men-o-pause.)

Part 2 (Trials and Venture) Chapter: On Trial! (pp: I don’t know.)

As the district attorney approaches the witness stand, Haley feels the flush starting to rise up from her belly, up and over her chest and neck and reach her face and forehead. Beads of sweat (or for Alabama girls, perspiration,) start dampening her bra and underarms and pearling across her forehead. Super timing, she thinks in irritation. The DA and the jurors are bound to interpret her red, sweaty face as a sign of nervousness or guilt.

“Mrs. Zimmermann, on page 68 of your manuscript you described what your husband called a looser day, including, and I quote, ‘getting stoned during the daytime.’ What did you mean by that?”

Haley has known this question was coming, but still isn’t sure how best to answer it. During her prep with Angel and Truth, both lawyers had hammered home to her the necessity of not admitting to anything. But they aren’t here, and she is. Somehow, Haley has the feeling the jury isn’t going to be pleased with the Greek equivalent of taking the fifth. Fuck it. Tell the truth.

“I think those words are self-explanatory.” (Damned if she’ll call him sir!) “But as you don’t seem to understand the phrase, it’s a synonym for getting high.”

“In other words, for smoking marijuana!”

“Not necessarily. You don’t have to smoke it, Kyrie.”

“Yes, well, but here on this page you clearly admitted that you and your husband were cannabis users in September of 2014, at that time – and as you are well aware, the use of marijuana was still banned in Greece, isn’t that so?”

“You know, laws here are always changing so quickly, it’s hard to keep track. (That gets a few smiles and nods from the jury. Good!) “And as I recall, possession and personal use of small quantities of cannabis back then was, while not exactly legal, was more or less tolerated, and in the unlikely event of arrest, prosecution, and conviction, treated as a misdemeanor and punishable with a small fine.”

“But it was against the laws of this country! Why did you take it upon yourself to put yourself above the sovereign laws of Greece?”

I decide to give it to him straight – and hopefully see him start turning red. Most males run for cover – and many of them for younger women – when confronted with the reality of menopause.

“Look at me, Mr. Prosecutor. See the sweat on my face? See how red I am? Those are the outward symptoms of a woman being boiled alive. It’s called a hot flash – one of the most horrendous symptoms of menopause. If a female human being lives long enough, they will go through this so-called “change of life.” If they are very lucky, they’ll only have mild symptoms. Unfortunately, I’m not one of these chosen few. For me – and the majority of women – such hot flashes can happen at any time, often for no apparent reason. The daytime ones are bearable – just. But the ones that hit you in the night – often 10 to 12 times – are a horror show. You toss and turn, throw off your covers, strip, get up, run cold water over your pulse points, and curse the fact that you were born a girl. When an attack finally subsides, you then start freezing, so you put your nightclothes back on – or if they are too wet, get fresh ones on and bury yourself back in bed – and the entire time, hoping you aren’t going to wake-up your husband who needs his sleep, too. With luck, you will be able to fall back asleep – but only to wake again an hour or so later and go through the whole nightmare again – and again – and again.”

The DA is indeed starting to get pink around the edges – as are, it seems, most of the men in the courtroom, including those on the jury.

 “So, when this first started with me – I was 49 – I managed to put up with it for exactly two weeks. I was a basket case, sleep-deprived, short-tempered, bitchy, not able to do my job properly, and definitely not a person anyone would want to live with. And that was when…” (No! Haley, don’t tell them it was Dan’s idea – no need to incriminate him, too.)

“That was when I decided to try something I had heard about that helps: cannabis. I researched it on the internet first, of course. And let me tell you, it worked! It’s not a cure-all, but since then, when I have one little joint in the evening, I mostly sleep through the night again. That’s why I use it – and believe me, if you were an aging woman, you would, too.”

“Objection, Your Honor. The witness has no idea what I would or would not do.”

“Sustained. Mrs. Zimmermann, please refrain from speculating about the prosecutor.” (Irrespective of the truth of those speculations, he adds mentally.)

“I’m sure, Mrs. Zimmermann, that I am sympathetic to your wanting to alleviate your, um, physical suffering. But you could have chosen legal remedies. Instead, you chose to wantonly break the laws of this nation, didn’t you?”

“Wantonly? Certainly not! My decision was considered carefully – and in no way disregarded the rights, feelings, or safety of other people. Indeed, my use of cannabis in this medicinal way immensely improved, and continues to improve, the quality of my life – and hence – the lives of others I was in contact with both personally and professionally.  And as to the ‘legal remedies’ you mentioned. Which legal remedies? Hormone replacement therapy, perhaps? No, I thought about it, of course – but my research revealed that HRT has potential side effects, including an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and strokes. It’s also terribly expensive, and well, why should I increase the wealth of pharmaceutical companies by purchasing one of their products that might help me in the short term – and kill me a few years down the road? Every woman is free to decide for herself, but my answer, was – and is – No thanks!”

“So you admit that you broke the law?” the DA presses home in the hopes of getting out of this menopause territory quickly. With dismay, he realizes he’s starting to perspire in public, too.”

“I admit that I made an informed decision to proactively do something that helped me cope with a condition that was driving me mad – and impacting negatively on every aspect of my life. It’s a great pity that the onset of my menopause didn’t wait until after legalization. Now, thank goodness, this option is legally open to all women who live in, or visit Greece*.”

HERMES: (whispering) Psst! Don’t get excited folks! Legalization in Greece remains in the “figment of imagination” category..)

The DA realizes it’s useless to try and get more out of her – and a quick glance at the jury box reveals that the two female – and one middle-aged male juror seem to be emoting something that might be sympathy. Undesirable. Time to move on.

“And where did you obtain the illegal cannabis, Mrs. Zimmermann?”

 “I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but do you seriously expect me to answer that question?”

“Your Honor! Please instruct the witness.”

“Mrs. Zimmermann, remember you are under oath, please answer the question.”

“I’m sorry, Your Honor, but I’m not a tattle-tale. All I can say is, for my first try, I bought 50 grams from a friend of a friend of a friend, and I got lucky. There were some bag seeds inside the packet, so I started growing my own.”

The DA can’t believe his luck. Two confessions before the break.

“No further questions at this time, Your Honor.”

“Very well, this court is in recess until 3:00 p.m.”

The gavel slams down as all rise even before Stella bids them to. And before Judge Doukas has even entered his chambers, the courtroom is buzzing, reporters are rushing, and the guards are taking Dan away before I can reach him.

Honey reaches me first. “Grab your bag, filakia mou. My friend, the two of us need to talk about what you are doing. Lunch is waiting for us at ______. I start to protest, but Honey places one of her divinely French-manicured fingertips on my mouth to silence me and takes my hand in her free one. Then despite her diminutive stature, she steams ahead, parting the crowd, and towing me after her. We determinedly ignore the journalists’ barrage of questions. Neither of us sees the three opposition spies slinking after us.

It’s just a five-minute walk to _______ – this tiny haven of excellent food at low prices only seconds away from the fast-food joints and more touristy-oriented establishments that spill out from and encircle Lion’s Square and one of Heraklion’s main attractions. Honey and I have reach The Fontana Morosini without speaking (a têteà–tête would have required shouting just to be heard over the afternoon rush of locals and the new trend of out-of-season tourists occupying every table in sight and conversing vivaciously, and above all loudly).

I stop at the fountain with its four noble lions’ heads that are finally gushing water again now that the city can afford to pay for it. I fumble in my bag for a coin to toss in together with a fervent wish that I haven’t just botched things. I close my eyes, make my wish as the fountain’s colorful history that I’d learnt off by heart to impress my intensive English course students with, starts pouring into my head. (In general, history can be a wonderful way of bringing one’s own troubles into perspective. Cretan history, with its centuries of war, occupation, and resistance is especially suited to this purpose.)

The Morosini Fountain has born witness to more than its share of human triumph and misery. It was completed in 1628 during the years when the Venetians were occupying and ruling the island in what became known as the Cretan Renaissance. The fountain’s lobes are carved with mythological motifs, mostly nymphs and dolphins. Alas, the huge marble statue of Poseidon that once crowned it was a victim of theft or destruction – no one knows – unless perhaps the person who might have “inherited” it from its pillager and is keeping it hidden somewhere.

The Morosini fountain’s purpose went far beyond the artistic and decorative. The Venetian’s had it made in order to ensure a sufficient water supply to the city they had renamed Candia – and which had not been blessed with any natural springs. A nine-and-a-half-mile-long aqueduct was built between the fountain and the water-rich village of Archanes to the south. The Venetians chose to construct the fountain on the site of what had once been the largest slave market in the Eastern Mediterranean back when the city was under the thumbs of the Saracens. They were the ones who actually founded the city in 824 soon after they had conquered the island’s previous occupiers, the Eastern Roman Empire. The Saracens fortified their new city with a moat – and creatively named the new town Castle of the Moat. They were in charge of the entire island (and allegedly, doing a lot of collaborating with pirates) until the Byzantines turned their greedy eyes upon Crete and laid siege to the Castle of the Moat in 961. When their tactic finally succeeded, they slaughtered the Saracens, looted and burned the city, rebuilt it, renamed it Chandax, and managed to keep hold of it for 243 years. They, in turn, “lost” Chandax –and the rest of Crete – in a politically motivated business deal that allowed the Republic of Venice to purchase the island, including of course Chandax – which quickly was renamed Candia.

And here – in addition to the fountain, Francesco Morosini, also built another impressive structure that is still standing today, the Loggia. I turn my head to the right, and can see it just down 25th August Street. Originally a sort of club for Venetian noblemen, the Loggia is an architectural gem that sports a Doric ground floor and an Ionic upper story. It was the center of Candian administrative and social life under the Venetians. But then came the Ottomans in 1648 – and began another siege for control of the city. This one lasted 21 years making it perhaps the longest siege in history, and in terms of human lives lost, certainly one of the most costly. In its last 22- month phase alone, the death toll was 70,000 Turks, 38,000 Candians (or Cretans) and slaves and 29,088 of the city’s defenders. In the end, the Ottoman Empire gained control of Candia (only altering the name slightly to Kandiye which they then applied to the entire island.) They turned the club house into the treasury of Crete and used it thus until after the island finally gained its independence more than 300 years down the road.

Prior to that, the Ottoman’s had allowed with their Organic Act of 1869 the city’s name to come full circle by permitting it to officially be known as Iraklio. This name had been popularized in the (failed) partisan revolution against the Turks in 1821. The revolutionaries themselves had reverted to ancient history here by calling the city the name it had originally given upon its settlement in post-Minoan Crete around 900 BC.

Thinking of all that people have endured and conquered on this island over the course of time cheers me – as does the view to the Loggia. Nowadays, it serves as Heraklion’s town hall. It’s where Dan and I got married.

Honey has lost patience with my silent contemplations and starts tugging me towards our destination. When we arrive at _______, my feet are killing me and although I was certain that I would not be able to eat a thing, my stomach starts growling when I see the mezes the owner Markos has placed on our table: zucchini mint fritters, spicy, creamed goat’s cheese, lovely green salad, and a plate of tender, marinated octopus all accompanied by a basket of garlic toasted bread. These are exactly the same dishes Honey and I had ordered the first time she brought me here – the day we celebrated the fact that after six months of back and forth, roundabout, up and down, here and there, and who knows why and where forth, maddening Greek bureaucracy, Dan and I had finally been granted permission to marry. Has she (or Markos) done this on purpose? Does she even remember…

“Things worked out very well the last time we ate these things,” Honey answers my unasked question. “I figure it’s a good omen or whatever for us to eat this again.”

Marko brings us one carafe of water and half of one filled with his light, white house wine. After he finishes pouring, he looks down the street, and appears to see something – or someone – that brings an impish grin to his dark grey eyes. Markos reaches into his apron pocket and takes out a manila envelope. Before handing to me, he bends down and whispers, “Wait five minutes, then go to the ladies. Open and read it there, then follow the instructions exactly.”

Honey and I exchange confused, “what now,” looks as I slip the envelope into my bag. I mean really! Like there isn’t enough going on without Markus turning all 007 on us. She pours us a glass of wine and we clink them together saying yiammas – to our health – in unison. Then Honey hones in.

“What in the world made you admit to…”

“Honey, really, I don’t want another cross-examination over lunch. Just trust me, OK,” I tell her with a lot more confidence than I feel. “Let’s talk about something else. How’s Christos?”

“Another topic, please.”

“Love your new hairstyle,” I compliment her with a worried smile. The Honey/Christos story is a roller-coaster one that has apparently once again de-railed. I take another sip of wine, push back my chair back and excuse myself.

Inside Siga Siga, I take a moment to admire the mural of 1950’s life in this corner of the. It’s a painting full of optimism and good cheer – sort of like now, just the skirts are longer and the men are wearing hats. I open the door with its poster of a biker girl and enter the tiny cubicle. As always, it’s clean and yes, toilet paper is available. However, Markos has been busy since the last time I was here. He’s fixed – or had fixed – the leaky toilet and added a pretty, light-green glass lamp  shaped like a flower to cover the naked light bulb that used to hang from the ceiling.

I open my secret envelope and remove the two pieces of white paper held within. The first page has a brief, typed message.

“Excellent move with the book reading, Haley. Keep it up! Put this paper in your bag, then tear up the envelope and the other paper (after you read it) and put the pieces in the bin. Tell you why later. And don’t talk to anyone about this – not even Honey – or Dan!  Best, A & T.”

I quickly read the second letter. It’s a bit longer and makes me laugh. It seems like my two striking attorneys are still working for me. I wonder if this will work, I ask myself as I follow the instructions – and just for spite, make sure to put the pieces in the bin next to the toilet where some nicely soiled toilet paper is right on top. (Although many things are improving in Greece, the issue of the too-small pipes in most of the country’s so-called sewage system has yet to be tackled, so the “Put your toilet paper in the bin” rule still applies – and ignoring it may result in even more disgusting consequences.

After quickly washing my hands, I return to our table just in time to see a woman who looks vaguely familiar enter the taverna and head for the restroom. She was in the courtroom – right in front of the opposition rats. Angel and Truth were right! I’m being followed.

Honey is already digging in when I return to our table. I help myself to a bit of the tender, vinegary octopus and a zucchini pancake. After a few bites, though, I push my plate away and reach for my wine glass.

“Careful, Hayley, you don’t want to be tipsy when court resumes.”

Actually, it might be easier – but she’s right, a bad idea.

“Just the one glass, Honey. Then I’d like to go back to the courthouse. Maybe they’ll bring Dan back in a bit early and I can catch a word with him.”

“Haley! You can’t just go! You have to tell me what was in the envelope first.”

“I can’t, Honey. But you’ll find out later, I promise!”

She’s not happy about it and gives me her, “I’ll get it out of you one way or another look.” I reach for my wallet – a present from Honey she gave me last Christmas – but she’s shaking her own curls in vehement protest.

“It’s on Markus. I’ll have him pack a people-bag for you. I bet you still haven’t been shopping, have you?”

“No. I’ll stop in Agia Vavara on the way home.”

“Why don’t you stay the night here with me?”

“That’s sweet of you, Honey, but, I’d rather be at home, you know? If…if I’m convicted, I likely won’t get to spend much time there…”

I push away that thought and stand up. Honey sighs, gets up, too, and kisses me on both cheeks before she hugs me tightly, tells me to keep my chin up, and warns me again to be careful, and “don’t let that asinine prosecutor trick you!”

As I walk briskly back to the courthouse, I wonder if the tattered, shit-smeared pieces of Angel and Truth’s “fake” message have found their way into DA Theodorakis’ eager, sweaty hands – or if the two of them are wrong and the DA isn’t part of the conspiracy. Guess I’ll find out soon enough.

My hopes of a few words with Dan are not to be realized. The guard’s bring him in just seconds before court is reconvened. There’s not even time for a sneak hand touching under the table before the Judge calls me back to the witness stand and I continue the story…

2 Replies to “Pepper”

  1. Woooaaahhh…! Haley, my sweetheart soulsister! You did it again! You made me cry… of joy! I love you so much, too. But – not being as eloquent a writer*ess as you wonderful woman are – I lack the words to tell you how much really.
    Thank you for being in my life and loving me the way you do!
    I’m gonna read this post again now and cry a little more because it feels so good <3

    1. Ah Pepper-mou!

      Now your words have brought tears of joy to my eyes, too, (and also made me blush!) I’m just soooo grateful for you, and can hardly wait to laugh with you vis a vis again (with or without tears!) Many hugs!!!!!

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