Kalimera. No, not calamari, that’s fried squid.

Kalimera is Greek for good morning. I’m boning up on Greek, just in case the Greek population of Waterville explodes as it very well may. Let me explain.

Greece is in a world of trouble. Not since one of Plato’s students spilled hot fassoulada (it might have been avgolemono) on the master’s lap, have we heard such loud screams from the Hellenic Republic.

Greece, the birthplace of democracy, is having a nervous breakdown, and thousands of Greeks, young and middle aged, are fleeing the country. Where are they going to go?

Thousands, it turns out, are fleeing to Canada and Australia. It’s the biggest exodus of humans since the Joads left Oklahoma for California.

The sad part of this is what is happening to an entire generation of young Greek minds. Youth unemployment is just under 50 percent. I’m glad Obama isn’t running on those figures. Pensions and jobs are falling under the knife. Before long the land of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Artemis, Persephone and Melina Mercouri will become a wasteland.

So off to Australia and Canada they go, and these two countries don’t know yet how lucky they are to have them. What I want to know is why we here in central Maine are asleep on this. Can’t we make a sister city out of Agios Pavlos?

We have plenty of land here for the Greeks. Of course there are no jobs here either, but the air is so much cleaner here than in Athens, and we have so few Greeks.

We have more French than the city of Paris, a handful of Germans and Native Americans, too few Armenians (now there’s some food), a roisterous crowd of semi-Irish who every year put on plastic green hats and pretend they just got off the boat. We don’t have enough Asians or Russians, and I haven’t shared a rugelach and coffee with a true sabra since Hester Street in Manhattan.

And then there is the food. As far as I can tell, there is a paucity of Green restaurants in central Maine. But it seems that one, Emilitsa in Portland, enjoys a nice reputation. If the Smith family is open to a new adventure, I recommend Emilitsa. In addition, my young spies tell me that there is the Acropolis on Forest Avenue in Portland.

My third high school (it’s a long story) in Waukegan, Ill., had many Greek kids whose families ran restaurants. I can only remember the bowls of olives and chunks of lamb and spinach pie (spanakopita). I never knew what all the dishes were called, so I went on line and looked at the pictures. It was like looking at an old class book.

And then I remember Melina’s baklava. Melina Webster was my daughter’s best friend in high school in Los Angeles. Melina’s parents, Jeannette and Dante, threw the best Christmas parties with Greek food, and wine and dancing through the night.

Most of you don’t know what you’re missing, and we’re blowing the deal by not getting on board and encouraging some of those thousands of Greeks to come here. We must start preparing ourselves for their arrival so we don’t come across as hopeless yahoos. The Greek language is no easy deal and with the Maine accent it would be hopeless. But at least we can appear knowledgeable of their culture. We can start reading the Aeneid, Thucydides’ “History of the Peloponnesian War” and Aristophanes “The Frogs.” OK. Never mind.

Let’s make it easy. Movies. That’s the thing. Movies are the international language. Rent “Never On Sunday.” Mercouri was fabulous. “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin,” the only movie Nick Cage made where he didn’t burn something down. And certainly “Zorba The Greek,” with Anthony Quinn. Lay in a couple of bottles of Ouzo and light the candles in the windows. We’re going to have lots of fun.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.


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