Never Alone

I was never alone

When I suffered


Always on my mind

Yet still suffered

Love is only enough in fairy tales, I thought

You took me on your arms

When I suffered 

Listened to my fears

Yet still suffered 

Bad karma maybe, I thought 

In my mixed up mind

You guided me

Then it came to me 

In a feverish dream nonetheless 

Your kindness was my food

Your soul my drink

Your love my cure 

I never knew love 

Till I felt it 

I would have never known

Without suffering 

Copyright Ted Kouretas 2017


Brunch for All Tastes at La Bete a Pain Fleury 

The popularity of Fleury West Village has brought about quaint and hip restaurants, cafes, and specialty food stores that make the northwestern enclave of the north-central Montreal borough of Ahuntsic into a mostly sustainable and walkable community that is beginning to burgeon. On the down side,  some properties, mostly commercial surrounding the village, have now been turned into hideous condos. This almost makes me want to not speak of this little 500 metres of modern commercial infrastructure, to out it blandly. 

The first progressive establishment to open up in the village was Le St. Urbain Restaurant, on the higher end of the scale, serving nouveau French fusion cuisine.  The owner decided to open up La Bete a Pain on the next street. 

It’s name, translated as The Bread Beast, properly represents its great array of artisanal bread. My favourites are the sesame-poppy seed, gamut, country baguette, and the pumpkin seed breads. Take the time to ask its surprisingly bilingual staff what texture and ingredients each one has. 

When you walk in you’ll be greeted with a choice of the sweet and savoury, such as the artisanal muffins and nut-filled croissants,  as well as the salty, such as their fabulous date scones and plain croissants. There isn’t what you can call an abundant amount of choice, especially after 11 A.M.,  but there is an adequate amount. 

If you leave you pay. If you wish to sit down in the adjoining room,  you continue there to order your coffee or wait for table service. 

Here’s a good description of a possible brunch experience. It’s also a great place to sit down and just enjoy your java and croissant. The coffee, while not a standout,  is very good. 

There is the drawback of problematic Wi-Fi reception. But I guess you shouldn’t be there on a weekend morning to write blog posts. 

Overall, this is a nice cafe with the problem of being too diverse. This is why I try to avoid it at peak hours.  

Atmosphere: 7

Service: 9

Food: 9

Coffee: 7

Overall: 7.5

Conversation 2 — In Therapy 

“Sure, she was from rural Wisconsin, but she was so open to being taken. ”

“What do you mean?”

“There’s that loneliness within others I pick up on. They are alone in a crowded space as much as in an empty room. The spark has gone. They no longer feel alive. They’re usually bored and need something new.”

The psychotherapist leaned forward. She was about 55 or so. Nice looking. Botox. Some other small surgeries. But she wasn’t alone and had no idea how the patient across her could be such a sociopathic homewrecker. Especially since he was so polite and forthcoming. 

“What do you see these women as?”

“Broken,” said the patient. He was about 40 and was addicted to sex. But perhaps he was addicted to being loved. He had given up trying to figure Dr. Van Dam out. 

“What’s broken?”

“Their soul.”

“And are you fixing it.”

“Is that a trick question? Obviously, not. I’m not delusional. Maybe I’m sociopathic when it comes to women’s emotions. Maybe I’m living something out. But no, I’m not fixing anyone. I’m a willing bandaid solution. ;”

“Do you see that as helpful?”

“She’ll get involved somehow with something or someone else. I figure I’m the safest choice after macrame. ”

Dr. Van Dam didn’t laugh. She seemed to be playing it out silently in her head. “So you call the cops on her husband. Did she tell you to?”

“No. But that’s why I’m here. I shouldn’t have done that. Thank God he had no plants in the basement that day.”

“So what now? Do you want to stop doing this to other women now that she’s back home?”

“Well, I want to feel better about what I’m doing…”

The hour was up. 

Dr. Van Dam had seen this so many times. But never had she understood or even seen the patient’s point of view and sort of agreed with it. This doubt planted in her mind would have her go find another therapist for the patient. 

Empowerment from Within— Let Go of the Bad Stuff, Hang on to the Good Stuff

Long weekend over and back to school routine settled in. I dropped  my son off at his school and was happy to finally get some time to myself. Was rushing to Starbucks eager to start on my second blog post before meeting my friends later that day. As I’m reviewing in my mind what I want to express on the post, I get hit by a car. 

The woman who hit me is waving her arms and yelling. We both get out of our cars to asses the damage. When we communicate she’s going on and on about her point of view. I’m so irritated that this person has hit me. Don’t like her pompous attitude and demeanor. I’m upset about the car. Upset about the deductible and my insurance going up.  Angry with her for not making the stop. Angry with myself for rushing.  At one point though,  I decide I’m going to just let it go. I tell her there’s no point in discussing anymore what happened as it’s not going to change anything. I said lets just get the paper exchange done and go on about our day.


Sometimes, things happen that can put you into a bad mood. Bad moments occur  that change the course of your feelings and then trigger other like feelings. You can start your morning off with the best of intentions and then end up in a car accident like I did.  Or, have a bad experience at work, get into a confrontation with someone, lose your patience with someone, become angry, have your feelings hurt or your ego bruised.. etc.. And then of course there are always bigger issues like thoughts concerning health problems, heartbreak, sorrow, loss, financial crisis etc.. 


No one is happy 100% of the time; life happens, things come up. Happiness is not a state of being.  It’s not a destination.  It’s just a feeling along with all the other ones. Feelings come and go and it’s ok not to be happy all the time. Sometimes negative feelings come up that need to be acknowledged and released.


Having said that, I believe what’s important is to not let yourself fall into that negative place for too long. I sometimes find myself in a type of loop thinking or reliving a certain thought or experience over and over again in my mind. This can give off negative feelings like anger, sadness, frustration, resentment etc.. Or one negative thought triggering the next negative thought and before you know it you are stuck in a rut and have fallen into a downward spiral of grumpiness, pessimism, discouragement,  cynicism, etc..  


Every single moment is the start of a new opportunity for us to change our mindset. You can’t think two things simultaneously in one precise moment.  So, what if you change the thought for the next moment to a happier one and then keep redirecting your mind to a better thought every time the negative loop starts occurring or negative thoughts return or are triggered. After some time you create a new loop, new thoughts that generate new good feelings, like gratitude, peace, happiness etc.. It sounds a bit too simple and elementary, but it really works.

When I find myself in these situations, I come up with different ways to change my mindset. Often an inspiring quote or a video can do the trick.  I also use daily affirmations to set the tone for the day or get me out of a rut sometimes. I’ve been collecting affirmations, quotes and inspirational videos since 2009. Some I have written myself but most I have taken from books, songs, movies, shows, you-tube videos, known quotes and conversations I’ve had with people.

I’ve been sending these out almost daily to a small group of people over the years, and many have often given me feedback that a particular message or reminder was exactly what they needed to get them through their day or moment.  Feedback like that many times makes my own day as I’m touched and honoured that I can have a positive impact on someone else in this small way.

I’ve decided to share these on my blog and I’ll be updating them regularly. If you find yourself looking to change your mindset, go though the list and find something that resonates with you. You will see how quick and easy it could be to change you mindset.

Going back to the day of my accident..  I didn’t end up working on my post that day nor did I get quality time to myself. I had to deal with the insurance and coordinating with the body shop and other tedious things related to the accident that brought it all up all over again.  Also, turns out I was more shaken up than I first realized about being hit and still kinda pissed off that it happened. But I didn’t let it ruin my day. Every time my mind would have negative thoughts, I redirected it to a better place. So instead of letting the day go downhill, I kept redirecting it back up.

Sure, maybe this bad experience happened, but I’m very grateful that no one got hurt.  I’m grateful that I’m lucky enough to have a car and insurance to handle these types of things. I did end up meeting my peeps at Starbucks and we had some good laughs over the whole thing. I felt their love and support and throughout the day the love and support of my family and other people in my life. These are the thoughts that I chose to focus on.

Greece Summer Memories — From the Simple to the Rotund 

With September here and summer coming to an end,  it’s time to share some memorable moments from the past couple of months. I apologize beforehand for possible repeated images. 

The sunset above will be missed. Nothing like a sunset overlooking the rocky reefs on the eastern side of Methoni. This pinkish colour means a warm day for tomorrow. It’d be a hotter prediction if it were more orange. 

There’s nothing as romantic as a sunset in Methoni. The tourists have it on their bucket list and the locals as part of their summer routine.  

This is the road in the daytime. Picturesque and unadvertised. Perhaps it’s better to keep it that way. 

The churchbell rings every half hour in Methoni from 6 A.M. to midnight. When someone associated with the village dies,  the bells toll. They have variations depending on the circumstance. Most of all,  it unites the locals. Although church attendance is slowly declining,  everyone wants to keep their church looking great. 

There’s nothing like fresh fish.  And in places like Methoni, they’re served the same day they’re caught. I even ordered in advance. 

The sweets are also very tasty. From delicious gelato/ice cream to traditional kataifi, it just tastes lighter and more authentic. 

Then there’s the opulent nouveau-grec cuisine. Here I’m having grilled salmon with only salt, pepper, and a little lemon. Delicious. Again, because almost everything isn’t made before you order, it’s easy to have it your way. 

This is main street in Methoni,. In the evening, it is totally closed to traffic. The tables move forward to also inhabit the street.  

If you blink,  you’ll miss this bohemian enclave in Psirri in Athens.  It is very commonplace in Greece, especially in bigger towns and in cities, for a place to transform from a cafe and brunch spot in the day to a restaurant in the evening to a bar at night. 

I’ll miss this type of antithesis. This is usually the norm in Greece— opulent rotund lush bordering with downtrodden marginalization. Sad. But hopeful as well. 

This dichotomy above is near tourist central in Athens. I took the picture at Monastiraki and the picture is of Psirri. Yes, it gets confusing. But like Manhattan,  it becomes second nature after a few visits. 

I’ll miss that rare late-August thunderstorm. It clears the humidity and freshens everything. 

I’ll miss colourful urinals. 

I’ll miss views of the Acropolis. 

I’ll miss shy newbie servers. 

Most of all I’ll miss the beach…

…with all its splendor. Human or otherwise!!!

Central Athens — Legal Prostitution on the Cheap 

The above is a legal sex studio somewhere in the centre of Athens. This is the Greek equivalent of an illegal massage parlour in Canada, especially famous in Chinatowns around the country. Prostitution has been legal in Greece for 7 years. 

During my last stay in the city centre, I decided to take the deal on trivago and stay at a cheaper hotel just south of the ever-popular Omonia Square, known for its seediness and abundance of purse snatchers. I knew and confirmed the drill with a taxi driver. Just walk and stay on Pireos Avenue and you’ll be safe.  The taxi brought me to the hotel using a side road whose  houses looked abandoned by its original owners and that was now a liveable pseudo-haven for south Asians. 

This is an example of a street we passed by. At the time, I made a mental note that thus was simply a bunch of abandoned buildings. And although squatting would have been possible as another option, brothels never would. And the owners of the brothels were not pimps but simply government workers. The diaspora on the streets was not profiting from the brothels, the government and the employees were. 

This building apparently has multiple brothels. The price for a hookup ranges from €10 – €20. 

This is where we should make the distinction between brothels (more popularly known as bordellos) and studios. Brothels are mostly hidden and the clients know about them by word of mouth. This seems odd since they are all supposed to be legal. And being legal consists of medical testing bi-weekly. This is very important because those not passing the tests can no longer work legally.  This may explain their hush hush existence and lower prices. 

I started realising early on in my stay that my hotel was one of the popular ones for call girls to make outcalls to because of its location. The hotel was respectable and quite clean. It seemed a bit secretive, but I blamed that on a lack of motivation by the staff. 

A housecall in Athens will set you back between €80 and €120. They advertised €350 for an overnight stay. The agency would give you peace of mind that these girls were well-bahaved,  clean, and would not bleed you dry when you were sleeping. 

There is no red light district in Athens, just studios scattered throughout the city. They are almost exclusively near the city centre and tend to be in industrial sectors, abandoned streets, or nestled somewhere barely in sight. The studio is the form of prostitution the clients are attracted to the most. 

The rules are simple. You enter and sit down in the lobby, usually on a couch. You are then approached by the girls that are free. Surprisingly, most studios have few girls. And 80% of the girls are not Greek. Greek girls are usually a bit pricier. The most popular ethnicities of prostitutes in Athens are Romanian, Russian, and Bulgarian. 

After a girl is chosen, you can negotiate limits. This brings up the price. It seems that the studios are not as busy as they should be.  They have been known to have to bring their prices down to compete with legal and even illegal brothels. 

Overall, Athens is a very safe and cheap area for prostitution. 

Article on €4 prostitutes in Athens
A bit more insight on the subject 
Myrto Papadopoulos’ study on prostitution 

Morning Swim 

Perhaps it’s my age,  but the morning swim that was unattractive and that seemed unattainable, has now become commonplace or even habitual. Yes, the morning swim. When the fishing boats are still warm in the engine. The last chance to see a fisherman carrying his biggest fish of the morning, leaning to the opposite side as it droops down.  

Then there’s the serenity in the air and the calmness of the waves.  There’s the yachts in the distance and the smaller fishing boats closer by. The mountain appears clearer than ever. You get to the umbrellas in front of the hotel and try to fully wake up. It’s still 9 AM and the girls taking orders won’t be there for another 90 minutes. 

I take out Charles Bukowski’s “South of No North” and feel better; not only because the book matches with the onlooking mountains,  but because they are both classics that will always overlook and guide. The pages are fresh and the short story flows smoothly and clearly. 

There are a few people on the chairs,  mostly hotel patrons.  English, Italian, and American. Odd finding Americans, but they’re slowly discovering new  “virgin territory”, as they say. It’s families or older couples.  That’s who I go swimming with. The very same people I chose to avoid. 

This becomes the scene by 10 o’clock or so. 

I go into the water. It feels like frozen tundra once it hits my private parts. I fear cardiac arrest before taking the plunge. It’s fucking cold. I take the plunge as 2 young boys look at me. I stay in for 5 minutes and run out and stay in the sun to dry. This cold water warm sun thing must be healthy,  I tell myself. 

I get up, have a coffee, and watch the day mature. 

Conversation 1 — At Melina’s

I walked through Monastiraki and then took a shortcut to the cafe. It was a quaint cafe, not too little and certainly not overwhelming.  It was unassuming,  perhaps. The sign wasn’t as visible as it could have been,  but the pictures inside made it evident that I was at Melina. The cafe was over 50 years old and was named and themed after Greek actress and international starlet Melina Mercouri.  

There were more cups of coffee on the table than people. They were sitting next to the open window. Best spot in the place, where the humidity was slightly taken over by the air conditioning. What did the poor suckers do back in the day, I thought. Fans, I replied to myself. 

The server was a very attractive Greek young lady of about 25 years with wide hips ideal for child-bearing. Other than that she was quite attractive with a very minute plastic-looking ring in her right nostril. I took the kataifi. 

“It’s been quite a while, ” said Nestor,  “decades.”

I greeted him and Zara, his sister, as they both looked like healthy much older caricatures of their younger selves. The topic was politics. How left can we go? 

I showed them my spanking new edition of Ριζοσπάστης and Sara’s eyes watered. She hadn’t voted for the Marxists, but they would forever have a place in her heart. We all agreed on the ineptness of the right to go beyond catch phrases. And it served us well. They’d lose like Hillary had. 

Then Nestor got very emotional over Macedonia. How dare they name a stupid worthless country after a great empire? Vivi reminded him that this was where Alexander had originally called home.

“And then they name the fucking airport after him. Have you seen them? They’re second-rate Bulgarians,” John said, continuing to rant. 

My kataifi was soggy from the excess honey, but was one of the best I’d ever had. 

“So Ted,”  Voula asked, “did you enjoy your stay? Did you swim enough? ”

“I like to get wet to break the heat, but I love just reading or writing on a chair under an umbrella drinking a nice frappe.”

“Isn’t that bad for your IBS?”

“Thankfully not.”

“It’s all nerves they say,” added Vivi. She’d had it for a year. She’d lost over 10 kilos. It had been during a difficult period.

I finished my kataifi. 

Then Voula introduced the owner to us and he gave us a brief history of the cafe. It was 10.30 PM. He was very excited, like a man giving you a rundown of his winery.  Nostalgia came out of his voice. His father was the original owner and had been a lover,  rumour had it, of Melina. He was certainly an admirer.  

“She was overrated, ” said Nestor after theowner had left. The 2 women leered at him. He stopped. Begrudgingly. “Let’s go have a tsipouri and some nice mezedes,” he continued. We did.  

Post-Apocalypse Now — Athens’ Psirri Neighbourhood 

Athens used to be a bland city, with gentrification properly spread out and sectored. But even the biggest capitalists can do nothing to separate themselves in most of Athens. This is especially true for central Athens, with its proximity to the Acropolis and the unwitting and unwilling victim or heir to the post-apocalypse neo-urbanism taking place. It’s simply a melange of the old and the new, a mix of the poor and the rich, a fierce and often frightening dichotomy of helplessness and despair meshed in with hope and preservation of dignity. The latter has cropped up by accident in many neighbourhoods. 

In Psirri, a working-class neighbourhood bordering Monastiraki (a kitsch tourist trap with a view;tourists buying the cheapest of souvenirs and the lowest quality of food with a low price to match) and Gazi (the trendiest neighbourhood on the city with a burgeoning restaurant and club scene for the wannabes), most of the stores and apartment buildings and houses look closed. Permanently. The graffiti guides us as to what is not occupied. I guess you can describe it as Brooklyn in the Bronx or, better yet,  Paris in Nairobi. It gets that confusing when you try to decide which corner is the best to turn on. 

I was told that the building above, and many many others like it, were used by squatters. The type of graffiti on the walls outside apparently specifies this. 

There is a not-so-imaginary line in what seemed to be the north end of the neighbourhood.  I crossed the big street, noticing that it was relatively barren and that cars sped through it. Oddly, no taxis passed. They all picked up passengers on the Monastiraki side. A young African man looked at me and smiled. He approached me and, in perfect Greek, told me that he wouldn’t be able to help me if the Asians came. I went back where I came from. 

Bougatsadiko serves, well, bougatses.

Scrumptious. Wholesome sugar and cholesterol. I use a knife and fork to eat it. 

This picture properly captures the dichotomy of the area and most of the city. 

Psirri has good restaurants, great pastry shops, and nice old-fashioned ouzeris where you can have meze like octopus and lamb with your raki. The amount of choice is surprisingly overwhelming, as is the quality of the hotels. Homelessness brings about lush. 

The translation  of the sign above is “I suffer”. And therein lies the point of this whole post. Suffering is part of the economic reality present in the city. But in a place with so little hope, people can still see the opportunity the future may give. But at what cost? Will their culture be preserved.