Getting Personal is an email Q&A with a local personality. Here, a chat with 37-year-old Konstantinos Yfantis. He works at Campus Information Technology and Educational Services and the University of Illinois.
What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?
7:15 a.m. I prepare for work on weekdays and snooze till 9 a.m. or so over the weekends. I like to get a cup of Lavazza coffee at Atlanta Bread and to browse the headlines — The New York Times, The News-Gazette, BBC and the Christian Science Monitor.
What did you have for lunch today? Where? With whom?
I had cream of cauliflower soup, roasted chicken and baked tomato slices at the Illini Union Ballroom with a great colleague at the university. It was Election Day, so civic engagement was the main ingredient of the discussion.
Best high school memory?
Publicly speaking out against the student-led occupation of the high schools in Greece in the 1990s.
Tell me about your favorite pair of shoes.
It's a pair of Patagonia brown shoes. Comfortable, no need to tie and in harmony with many dress codes.
What does a perfect Sunday afternoon include?
BBQ at my parents, eating Greek-inspired American-made delicacies.
Was there one book you read as a child that you still cherish? Own? Read?
The book I cherish the most is by Greek author Zorz Sarri, "The Treasure of Vagia." It combines adventure, camaraderie and summertime relaxedness in an idyllic setting: the island of Aegina, which is one of Greece's most beautiful, just 30 minutes southwest of Athens.
Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?
I'd like to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories. I want to meet the people and experience the culture, the food and the state of affairs instead of consuming what others are trying to serve.
Tell me about your favorite pet.
Back in the '80s, my dad brought home an English setter (born and raised in Italy). We baptized her "Terry," and she was beautiful, well-mannered, happy and understood both Greek and English. We always cooked homemade meals for her.
Have you discovered that you are becoming like one of your parents? Which one and how?
While I retain unique characteristics, part of me has metamorphosed into a synthesis of both my pa and ma. I got my dad's friendly nature toward people and my mother's proclivity to cook to show her love. Once or twice a year, my dad's short temper surfaces; my mother's rare melodramatic side makes an appearance or two as well.
What would you order for your last meal?
Five generous pieces of moussaka followed by three big pieces of ekmek kataifi as dessert and a glass of icy cold "Tony Michalos" limoncello. With this amount of goodness in my system, St. Peter will certainly charge extra for admission.
What can you not live without?
My Nokia Windows mobile, my Macbook, WILL Radio, travel adventures, as well as family and friends.
Who do you have on your iPod?
Angela Dimitriou, Chicago, Claudio Baglioni, Cold Play, Enrico Macias, Frank Sinatra, The Jackson 5, Kiki Fragouli, Marinella, Material Issue, Mikis Theodorakis, Nana Mouskouri, Otis Redding, Talking Heads, Usher and Vivaldi among many others.
What's the happiest memory of your life?
Tightly hugging my sister Vivian to wish her success as she embarked on her battle to win against leukemia.
If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite?
Elie Wiesel, Maya Angelou and Nelson Mandela. If the limit was six, I would include Bill Gates, Fidel Castro and Jon Stewart.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
To read the poem "Desiderata" by Max Ehrmann. It contains a lot of highly condensed wisdom that one can use daily.
What's your best piece of advice?
Threefold: Know yourself. Everything in moderation except for love. Read the poem "Ithaka" by Constantine Cavafy.
What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?
Working as a server at my parents' pizzeria as a teenager circa 1987 in Karystos, Greece. I earned about 500 drachmas per day, which translates to about $3.50 (I tried to adjust for inflation).
What was a pivotal decision in your life and how did you arrive at that decision?
I hold both U.S. and Greek citizenships. A requirement of the latter is to serve in the armed forces (universal draft for males). I made the choice to serve in '02, and I discovered a society that was drastically different than my stereotypes. In the military, I learned to make peace with the deep night, spiders of all sizes, the Turks and generally with people who are different than me in all sorts of ways: religion, sexual orientation, color, political beliefs, nationality and addictions just to name a few. National service is a good thing, and if I ever get elected POTUS, my first executive order will require it for every American.
Do you have a bad habit? What is it?
I have difficulty saying no to helping people and causes via volunteerism.
How do you handle a stressful situation?
I take a deep breath, and I try to reassure myself that this, too, shall pass. Time is a pretty good doctor.