I’s just appalling what the media has done with the “cupping” story out of the Rio Olympics.
And now I’m probably going to have to file lawsuits — even against my own paper — because of the media’s sins of wanton cultural misappropriation.
It began with NBC stories about American swimmer Michael Phelps and those purple rings on his skin. Some called it cupping, a holistic medical practice the “mainstream media” said was invented by the Chinese.
But cupping isn’t Chinese, per se. Was Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, from China?
No. Nothing against China, but Hippocrates was from the lovely Greek island of Kos.
And according to my bevy of experts, including my friend Dino’s Aunt Koula, my Uncle George, his lunch friends at Greek Islands restaurant, Sam Sianis of the Billy Goat Tavern and almost everybody on Facebook except a Danish guy, it’s not Chinese.
And it’s not cupping.
It’s a Greek thing. And they’re called vendouzes.
Ask any of my cousins, they’ll tell you. Yet skeptics continue to plague me.
“It’s not just the Greeks, all cultures claim it,” said a guy who disagrees with me. “All cultures have it. For example, it was in that movie ‘Zorba.'”
Zorba? You mean “Zorba the Ancient Chinese Guy”?
“Oh,” he said.
Yeah, I said. Boom.
“The media is just so unfair on the vendouzes story,” said ace lawyer and friend (but no relation) Dino Armiros of Arnstein & Lehr. “It’s just a rip-off.
“Greece carries the burdens of the world, with the refugee crisis, and the financial crisis, and now the media steals vendouzes? That’s cultural appropriation at its worst!”
Exactly. This aggression cannot stand, Dino.
“Gwyneth Paltrow had it done and it became a thing. Phelps. A trend begins — called cupping?” Armiros asked. “Cupping? Are they serious? These are vendouzes.
“And absolutely no credit given to the yia-yias (grandmothers) who carried the practice through the centuries.”
And what did those yia-yias do? When their grandchildren had colds or respiratory problems — or simple aches and pains — the Greek grandmothers would chase the kids around the house.
The kids would scream. But the yia-yias would always catch them, make the children lie on their stomachs and apply the vendouzes.
It really didn’t hurt, either. And it wasn’t just for kids. Adults, teenagers, old people, everybody. Or, most everybody. I haven’t had the pleasure. Perhaps someday.
Take a small clean glass, insert a lighted alcohol wipe to burn out the oxygen and quickly apply it to the skin. Usually five, six, sometimes seven cups are used.
The skin is drawn into that vacuum. And so, perhaps mysteriously, or magically, it is said that vendouzes draw out the noxious humors that bedevil the human body.
Is that scientific? Don’t ask me idiotic questions. It works. Vendouzes also massage aching muscles.
Experts say Phelps had the purple rings because the cups were left on too long. Clearly, there were no Greek yia-yias tending to the Olympic team, just fancy-pants pretenders.
What’s next, some country will claim to have invented Greek yogurt?
“Ah, vendouzes, the best thing for you,” said Sam Sianis, the proprietor of the Billy Goat Tavern. “Vendouzes clean out your body. It puffs up the skin. It takes out the poison. Everybody knows vendouzes.”
Not everybody, Sam.
“All the Greeks know, and the Serbians, Bulgarians, Albanians, Romanians,” Sam said. “So everybody knows.”
Yes, it is true that other cultures claim the wonders of vendouzes.
“I remember them from my childhood in Poland,” wrote Anna Grabis on Facebook. “Every mom knew how to apply them and they worked!”
Julita Wiszowaty agreed. “In Poland, we called them banki. They helped me with pneumonia,” she wrote.
Macrina Gomez tells of Mexican vendouzes.
“Vendouzes is used to relieve muscle pain,” Gomez said. “This technique has been used in Mexico many years. I had it done on my back by a sobador (masseuse).”
What are vendouzes called in Spanish?
“Ventosas in Spanish,” Martha Camargo said. “I would do this on my husband’s back for colds. Both of us were 22 and apparently fearless.”
Ventosas? Vendouzes. And there you go.
According to almost unimpeachable sources, vendouzes are as Greek as the moutza.
“Ancient Egypt,” Panagiotis Korbakis said. “And Hippocrates.”
Oh. Of course, the Egyptians were involved. I don’t want to steal glory from Egypt. But Hippocrates was a champion of vendouzes, and came up with other theories, like trepanning, involving the drilling of a hole to relieve pressure, still used in modern eye surgery.
Unfortunately, Hippocrates’ nice theory was taken to rather hideous, evil extremes by northern Europeans, and chronicled by Hieronymus Bosch in “The Extraction of the Stone of Madness.”
If you were mentally ill, the northern Europeans would drill a hole into your head without anesthetic. This was said to relieve evil vapors, noxious gases or that aggravating madness stone.
Please don’t blame Hippocrates. He is credited with saying, “First, do no harm.”
My people have wandered to many lands, bringing with them science, democracy, mathematics, philosophy, poetry, the moutza and vendouzes.
“Are you trying to appropriate everything now for the Greeks?” an editor asked. “You just can’t say, ‘We invented this. We invented that. We invented cupping.'”
“No,” she said. “You must have proof.”
Well, the Greeks invented Windex, I said. Everybody knows this. It cures everything, almost like vendouzes.
“Really?” she asked.
There you go.
Have you listened to The Chicago Way, the best podcast in the cosmos, with John Kass and WGN-AM producer Jeff Carlin? Special guest is Kristen McQueary, a Tribune Editorial Board member.