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Jun 1, 2014

In the Company of a Pair of “old geezers”


It’s 4pm on the 1st of June 2014 and by all appearances, it’s a beautiful, sunny but cool, afternoon.

I have found myself in the quaint village of Pape surrounded by nature and other houses in the company of a pair of “old geezers”-and I say that affectionately...

Both men are over seventy—this I assume because I know Mr. Goudas’s age so his compadre is not too far ahead or behind.

We are in Dimitri (Jim) Kottas’s back yard, on his deck to be exact.

You may remember Jim from Mr. Goudas’ article A Wise Sheppard.

He is also the author of five wonderful books; my personal favorite being his book of quotes.

Since Mr. Goudas published the article about Dimitri Kottas, he has completed the writing and publishing of two more books.

I am being studious—or so I appear—little do they know that amidst their Greek blah blah blah, dice throwing and peculiar game of tavli I am musing, watching and recording their every move.

Tavli is an interesting game; it appears to be a “braniacs” game; the sort of game that requires its players to pay detailed attention to his opponents every move.

I have never played the game but would juxtapose it to Chess by nature of both games objective.

I believe it is also called Backgammon-the rules however may be a little different.

By the way did you know that in the 80's Mr. Goudas was the President for the Canadian Chess Club Association located in High Park.

As a matter of fact when he was 10 he began playing and soon there after began competing in championships. He played to the point of madness- he was consumed with Chess that by age 12 he was no longer allowed to play in Greece.

Perhaps I should enroll in Tavli College but until then let me focus on this afternoon…

Mr. Goudas has a serious disposition but Jim Kottas seems contemplative…

Jim Kottas & Peter Spyros Goudas in tavli

It therefore comes as no surprise that   Mr. Goudas is leading 8 to 1…

I asked Jim Kottas “Aren’t you mad that you are losing? ” To which he responded “Not at all.
That’s why Peter likes to play with me.”

All this time Peter sits quietly with a smirk on his face pretending to be unaware that a discussion about him is ensuing.

They continue their game of tavli into early dusk. By this time Mr. Goudas has won three rounds of ten.

Jim bids him good evening but they play once again, perhaps it’s his victory, perhaps just a whim.
Perhaps it’s an outlet to keep him away from everything.

You see I neglected to say when I began this piece.

That earlier this evening he was melancholy, he was seated at his computer with three cups of coffee.

But his hearts emotion was visibly displayed on his face as a smile did not accompany his greeting.

I said “Mr. Goudas, What’s happening to you?”  He looked at me sadly, then I left the room.
He then had me read a story he’d written, then we listened to The Koukla Story, a sad story.

Now I wondered what I should do.

His food he did not even want to consume.

I offered to drive him wherever he pleased in hopes he would say yes and feel more at ease.

He contemplated, made phone calls, and then finally conceded… I got myself ready so that we could leave.

We headed on the highway on the 407 East to somewhere he knew but our destination remained unkown to me.

Though I concentrated on driving it became apparent to me that as we journied further away from his place his mood improved as did the sadness on his face…

We spoke, played reggae music and the audio of Canada Geese he directed me to exit and before you knew it we had reached.

A smile slowly krept to the corner of his cheeks--It’s like he left worry, fear doubt and distress behind and on seeing his compadre he was as happy as a child.

We all carry burdens in our heart buried deep of trials of failures of tasks incomplete.

But time must be taken to reflect and renew one’s courage in order to conquer defeat.

For Mr. Goudas I guess Tavli is his outlet or momentary relief from all that the business was, is and forever he hopes will be…

Mr. Goudas is determined to make his Cambodian assistant Chantal world champion…Really I kid you not.

Click here to view the video clip of the Tavli master and his student Chantal.

Of course this video was made in 2012.
Since then Chantal has improved her skills and learnt two more games of Tavli by the name Portes and Fevga.

You can also see the video on youtube by searching the word "tavli".

Contributed by Mickel Allen

MICKEL-ALLEN

Mickel Allen IS WRITER FOR NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES

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