Stoned Kitchen, or how a slightly illegal po(t)cast helped save Greece (eSKay) is set primarily on the spectacular, rugged coast of southern Crete.
The story begins in August 2014 and plunges the reader into the unconventional lives of Haley and Dan Zimmermann. They are two downshifters (and immigrants) in their 50’s enjoying the simple, good life in spite of the financial crisis threatening to bankrupt the country they call home.
Dan’s a carpenter/master of most trades from northern Germany and Haley’s an American “ex-pat,” who had moved to Germany from Ney York City to live with Karl, a Freudian psychoanalyst. After Karl’s death of cancer, though, Haley relocated to Crete, where to her amazement, her previous, mere acquaintanceship with Dan would evolve into the healthiest and happiest relationship of both their lives.
Stoned Kitchen is both fast-paced and reflective. It tells its stories using various points of view (including two first-person narrators, Haley and her all-knowing, German cat, Miamou, and a cast of colorful secondary characters from around the world.
Part 1 of the book, “A little bit About some of Us” introduces the reader to Dan and Haley’s world. It begins on a Saturday morning in mid-August with the couple being rudely awakened by yet another sheep attack in their tiny garden. Their day quickly becomes worse when a huge wild fire begins rapidly spreading through the area. As professional fire-fighters are more than an hour and a half away, Dan and his Austrian/German neighbor, Achim Schmidt, go off to fight the blaze with the local, make-shift, minimally-equipped, volunteer fire department. Before the battle to try and save another German homeowner’s holiday home from the encroaching flames even gets off the ground, Dan discovers the unwelcome surprise of a not long dead and freshly mutilated body on the outskirts of the endangered property.
What happened to the “victim” – archeologist Lycaons Pachis – is one of SK’s many sub-plots. At the end of part 1, Haley decides to take up her visiting American friend and former colleague Jay Jacobs’ off-the-cuff idea that she should do a podcast about “crisis life” in Greece.
In part 2, “Trials and Visions,” Haley throws herself (and Dan, Miamou, and Jay) into what has now evolved into her po(t)cast project. Dan has dubbed it “Stoned Kitchen,” and this proves to be an apt choice since Haley plans to have its characters occasionally getting high as they share their insights and visions about how to get Greece out of crisis mode. Furthermore, her envisioned Stoned Kitchen features “pot luck,” and “one or two pot” meals in the po(t)casts “Crisis Cooking” segment. However, because cannabis is still majorly illegal in Greece, Dan urges Haley to keep a low profile. She reluctantly concedes the point and persuades Jay to be the show’s “frontman” from the safety of his home in “legalized” Portland.
From this point of the novel on, portions of the story are also told through excerpts from the po(t)cast transcripts, posts on its homepage, court documents, and (secret) correspondence between Haley, Jay, and others.
After a somewhat bumpy start, Stoned Kitchen quickly becomes a “cult” podcast and generates first benefits (just not monetary ones.) The po(t)cast also catches the attention of the Greek government, and eSKay’s “radical” views prompt some members of conspiracy-theory loving elements in the Greek opposition parties to start trying to identify and expose “the criminals” behind it. For its part, the powerful Greek Orthodox Church condemns Stoned Kitchen as “subversive and blasphemous nonsense.”
In early December, Dan and Haley add to their “illegal activities” when they begin secretly harboring the Syrian refugee, Dr. Sabah Fakhory. Just before Christmas, a freak snowstorm hits southern Crete and leads to a happenstance encounter between Haley and Dan and (unbeknownst them) Greece’s soon-to-be first socialist Prime Minister, Adonis “Tony” Alkiviadis and his common-law wife, Sofia Drakasaki. Of course, Sofia and Tony also don’t suspect at first that the couple offering them shelter from the storm just happens to be the real-life “god and goddess” Thalia and Daed(alus) they are already familiar with from regularly listening to Stoned Kitchen. A friendship of sorts ensues between the two women, and through Sofia’s (and Dan and Haley’s) influence, Tony finds the courage to make some surprising and controversial political decisions for the nation’s future. The eSKay inspired Grow Greece plan turns out not to be a panacea for all the crisis-ridden country’s ills, though – and will have unexpected personal and professional consequences for Tony and Sofia, Haley and Dan, Sabah and Achim, many of their friends – and Greece as a whole.
Footnote: I just re-read this “short summary” for about the 10th time. (LOL. Summaries are not my strong suit!) It’s 22 June 2020 and I’m putting the finishing touches on the new/old website that I hope to launch avrio – meta avrio at the latest! (Have to remember to add a “more block” to this page! Doing it now! Please wait! … Done!)
I have to admit to just now having a very big case of “second thoughts” and “doubt” (again) about “going public” with this website at all. (And yes, asking myself for the millionth time, “Why did you even start writing Stoned Kitchen in the first place?)
Just the other day, I “mentioned” to a friend who helped inspire one of eSKay’s characters that, “My book is almost ready.” You should have seen the look on their face when I also “fessed-up” and informed them, “Oh. And you are “in it.”
My (still) friend didn’t press me on it (they were busy, and well, we weren’t speaking their native language together.) But the thought occurs to me now (again) that, “Some people might, well, not be thrilled to “find parts of themselves” in Stoned Kitchen.” I’ll leave that there before doubt overwhelms me. I’m just going to do this and hope for the best (and the chance to explain in case anyone becomes angry with me, and resorts to things like old-fashioned stonings to try and get my attention and express their disapproval…)
H.Z./G.K. 22 June 2020
P.S. Did I mention that not all the things that happen in Stoned Kitchen “the Book” are real (yet)?
Postscript /footnote added later (23 November 2020): Today, since I cannot settle to much here in “Lockdown “2 in Greece, I’m proofreading some pages here in “The Book” section because I am “getting ready to submit again.” See: future new addition to submission here – after I write it and post it that is…add link later.)