Monday, May 21, 2012

Greek Fest 2012

I may have mentioned one or twice before that I’m not a fan of the mega-church model that seems fairly prevalent in Houston(1). So it’s always been comforting that down the church from us  is St. Basil the Great Greek Orthodox Church. It's a small neighborhood church, with spaghetti dinners, a loyal and close-knit congregation, etc. It’s that classic American small church community.....well, except for the whole “we went and built a Byzantine castle” thing.

Perfect for solemn services, joyful celebrations, and holding off the Turks.

I cannot tell you how pumped I am to have this thing up the street from me(2). It’s a fantastic landmark,  an architectural triumph among a sea of strip malls and McMansions, and, well, when the zombie apocalypse comes it WILL be my redoubt.

Impregnable castle, built in sniper towers, and a lifetime’s supply of Gyros. Bring it on, Zombs.

The great thing about this church is that even with this massive cathedral of a church, the congregation still seems to be be comprised of old Greeks, families, and dancing children who have never, ever, heard of irony. It is authentic to the core, which truly shines during their annual Greek Fest.

Hipsters ran, hissing, from the unashamed wholesomeness of their dance

Even when we can’t stay long, we always stop by for a plate of fantastic Greek food,  to enjoy the atmosphere a bit, and support a great neighborhood institution. This year we only had an hour or so, so we walked(3) around a little, and then stopped delaying the inevitable, and sat down to eat ate a huge plate of pastichio and various pastries.

The Gyros, Souvlaki, Greek Pizza, etc all looked great, but the Pastichio plate was so good I forgot to get a picture until I was halfway done.

I was excited to get a chance to tour the new church. The inside was as impressive as the exterior, a blend of modern lines with byzantine art and classic touches. Two massive frescoed(4) alcoves flank an altar backed by panels of icons, soaring to a simple white dome with recessed windows giving a soft blue light. It really felt like a place out of time(5).

The inside made me feel a little blasphemous about considering it as a zombie-proof fortress. “Little”, not “completely”.

Of course, that was balanced a bit when we came out and the festival announcer was initiating the Gyro-eating contest. He called it “The Mount Olympus of mastication”(6).

I love this place.


(1) I mean no offense to anyone, of course, but growing up in a small village church surrounded by history and a sense of close-knit community, it’s hard for me to imagine how I could ever feel like I belonged to one of those generic, massive, multi-thousand person congregations that grow like city-states in the suburbs here. Add in a heavy dash of politics and a focus on buzz-words/jargon (and in some places, pretty heavy on the commercial side of things), and it just isn’t my thing.  

(2) If anything can break up the mind-numbing blandness of suburbia, it’s a massive octagonal fortress.

(3) I’m not as hardcore as some fellow planners about pedestrian friendly landscapes being the end all and be all of progress, but it is pretty great to be able to walk to a place like this.

(4) The frescoes were done in the gold-leaf sort of painting common to the GReek orthodox style, and was intricately accomplished. I wanted to ask someone there more about it, but didn’t get a chance to. It was such an odd contrast to the suburban landscape all around it.

(5) Cue Kansas’ “Byzantium”

(6) Which was hosted by “Major League Eating” which is apparently a real thing. The irony of this, given the current condition in Greece and the hardships of its people, was not lost on me.

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