Writers are storytellers.
As I thought about a story to tell you, I settled on the story of Iannis V. *, a rich and influential Greek businessman. I thought about him because he made an impact on me.
Even though Iannis owns over thirty homes, he mostly lives in two, one of which is a beach house. He called me recently and asked, ‘What do you know about roses?’ I was flattered that he thought to ask me. He explained that he wanted to plant them near his beach house and sell them. ‘Near your beach house?’ I asked incredulously. ‘Yes, yes! I researched it and they’ll grow here just fine.’ I replied that I didn’t know much other than to mention Bulgaria’s Rose Valley. It hardly surprised me that at an advanced age Iannis would attempt to cultivate roses near a beach for export.
To spend or not to spend
When we first met, he told me that, once upon a time, he didn’t have much money at all. ‘When I didn’t have money, I staid home. When I had money, I’d go out to the restaurant.’ It was an astonishingly simple yet powerful statement. He then made some disparaging remarks regarding the spending habits of younger Greeks. 1
On a separate occasion, Iannis said, ‘When I was a teenager, my friends wanted me to smoke even though I didn’t. One day, they bunched up on me and forcibly held me against a wall as they tried to stick a cigarette in my mouth.’ Iannis laughed out loud as he remembered, his perfectly intact, white teeth flashing and his brown eyes dancing. ‘I fought back by kicking them hard. I don’t smoke!’ he said earnestly.
Not only doesn’t he smoke, Iannis told me that he goes to bed at sunset and gets up at sunrise. He told me he’s done this his entire life.
Good behavior, bad behavior
Iannis seems to attract scandal to him like a magnet. Some people love him, while others hate him. He’s even received threats.
In spite of it all, though, I think that Iannis V. is an extraordinary character. Although lacking a formal education, he is brilliant, highly disciplined and an amazing businessman who knew exactly what he wanted from an early age.
* Name changed to protect identity.
1 He was referring to borrowing from parents and the use of credit cards. Note that this conversation took place prior to the financial crisis of 2008.
Image title: ‘Sunset over the Acropolis’
Photographer: Luba Rascheff