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Category — Armenia

My Dad and His Parents

This is the only picture of my father’s parents that I know of, and the earliest picture of my father that I know of. That’s my dad on the left and his parents, father Momikon Sahakyan and mother Sadat sitting next to him. 1923. I assume this picture was taken in Armenia, but it might have been in Baku. I’ll ask him tomorrow.

****08.28.11 Update: My dad says the picture was taken in Armenia in his home town of for his mother, sisters and family farm starting at age 12.  His father, despite showing up for this photo, was rarely around after my dad was about 12.  He was younger than my grandmother and was embarrassed that his wife would carry him to bed when he fell asleep.  He was like eleven or something and she was like seventeen when their fathers decided they should be married.

My father did not go on to an easy life after this picture was taken.  He tells me the only relatively normal and peaceful part of his life was his marriage to my mother, who went and died on him almost four years ago now, a month before his ninety-ninth birthday.  Five days from what would have been her seventy-first.

August 26, 2011   Comments Off

Family Bible 860AD

Have you ever flipped through a book this old? My Dad hid this thing from Bolshevik invaders in 1925 by burying it under a large flat stone in a barn. It was passed down in his family for over 1100 years. This photo was taken at an undisclosed location in Armenia.

April 19, 2011   2 Comments

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday.  Thank God the work week has ended and I have a chance to sit down and write to you.  It’s a fleeting chance because I have go to Toys R Us when the Fam gets here in a couple of minutes.

I just wanted to say I’ve been thinking a lot about death, and how we all die, and how we like to say things like “man has controlled fire for thousands of years” when in reality one person has ever lived that long.  My father is, let’s just say- ehem- over 100 years old.  The police asked “how old is your father” before they let me on the plane out of Armenia last year.  I of course gave them the answer that matched what his passport says.  The other day my father was telling me a World War II story about meeting a former Bolshevik army officer.   Bolshevik.  Did you know that during the time he was a Nazi slave- he had a girlfriend in Hungary?  He dressed up as a Nazi soldier so he could enter her house and got rid of a gun that would have sent her to prison.  He saw 14 other prisoners shot to death as punishment for other prisoners’ escape.  It’s hard to explain.  He was dragged around Europe with chains on his feet for two years.  He said he was very near the battle of Stalingrad.  He is a story machine right now.  I think he’s feeling his age a little.

So we all die, including our own children someday.  As a parent you have to come to grips- Not only that you are responsible for that new person – but also for his or her eventual death.  How horrible.  I have to weigh that when thinking about whether I want a third child.  Sako the diamond dealer says more room will always somehow be made at the table.  But I have to ask myself whether I really believe that.  Look at the state of the world.  People are hungry and we’re eating into the natural environment at an alarming rate.  All economics are based on the wealth derived from the natural environment.  You can’t eat money.

At least as it is I can pretend to rationalize that me and my wife with our two kids have justifiably replaced ourselves.  We have a boy and a girl actually.  A little me and a little her.  In reality I know that since my wife and I are both living, we haven’t replaced two with two others.  We have added two to two.  And Poopsie and I are not the worst offenders, believe me.  My father for example.  He had seven children (two are deceased)…that we know of.

Family is home.  Time for a trip to Williston.  Whoo.


Update 8:40pm: Back from Toys R Us.  The climate in that store sucks.  Everytime I go in there I feel like I might as well be in a warehouse in China where 98% of the toys were made.  Warehouse air and warehouse lighting.  Cheap plastic crap carrying trillions of invisible dust mites from accross the Pacific. 

The point I was going to make about death is that it makes all of life seem like a dream.  Despite the fact that it’s all we know, it’s existence that’s the aberration, and non-existence that’s the norm.  Think about it.  Time went back forever before you arrived, and it will go on forever after you’re gone.  Is life even real?  Is time?

Anyway.  Mr. Brown said “life is what you make it.” 

That’s essentially what I’m saying too.

July 9, 2010   2 Comments

Empire State of Mind

If you’d like you may enjoy this Jay Z and Alicia Keys Video While reading this post.

    Empire State of Mind by Jay Z and Alicia Keys

I’m glad I went and I’m grateful to Aram for inviting to ride down with him to New York City on Saturday.  I hadn’t been to New York in three years, and I hadn’t really had a vacation in six, unless you want to count that week in Armenia last summer, three days of which I spent in the air.  That was more a pilgrimage than a vacation.

NYC is always a bit of a pilgrimage to.  I like to think about my ancestor who came to Ellis Island on a boat.  That was my father in 1950. 

It was a good thing I took today off too.  Good to have a day to settle back in before returning to whatever it is I do for a living.  I have a dental cleaning scheduled today as a nice way to top of my vacation.  That’s right.  For my vacation I dove straight into the center of humanity’s hustle and bustle and am topping it off with a trip to the dentist.  That’s the way I roll.

So let’s look at some pictures of some of my dear friends in New York, shall we?

Ari and Eun at breakfast Easter Sunday

Here’s my friend Ari and his girlfriend Eun.  We had breakfast at a trendy little brunch place.  Eun is a dentist and Ari is an entrepreneur and inventor.  Sometimes Ari works for other people too.  He had a special Job interview Monday.

Leanne and Ben at Home on West 45th

Here are Ben and Leanne.  They met about ten years ago and married, what?  About five years ago?  Poopsie and I attended their wedding in South Carolina.  It was lovely.  Ben and I have been friends since first grade.  That’s thirty years to you.

The mysterious blogger Cassandra Jupiter and her husband Josh

Here is my friend Josh and his lovely wife Cassandra Jupiter.  Josh was also in the same first grade class with me and Ben.  Josh came in to Central Park with a posse of family eight deep, and met up with me, more friends, and more family there.

Left to right: Ben, Ari, Josh, Haik in Central Park 04.04.10

Looking for a restaurant that can seat 15

A candid moment

It was getting dark and I had to bail on the dinner posse.  I took the 7 train out to Woodside to see my friend Mr. G.
G is a New York City school teacher of juvenile offenders at Rikers Island.  A co-worker of his coined the term “Baby Mama Drama Bus” to describe the weekly busses that bring in the visiting mothers of the kids going to high school in prison there.  G took me t shirt shopping in a relatively Indian neighborbood somewhere between Woodside and Jackson Heights.

From Mr. G’s I went to Times Square to meet up with our mutual friend Jude. (See the post Live From New York)

Jude Kiernan

And after I visited Jude and picked some of my stuff back up from Ari’s place, I caught back up with Aram and had the good fortune to visit with both Mahlon and Toby.

Left to Right: Mahlon, Toby and Aram

It was a wonderful trip and I’m glad I got to see all of these great friends.  It was quite a thing to be in New York on its first gorgeous spring days.

New York is the melting pot and the most shining example of America’s great ideals.

April 7, 2010   Comments Off

The Irony of Fate

When I was a kid my greatest fear was getting nuked by the Soviet Union. They used to blare the air raid sirens as a weekly test at the Staniford Road fire station when I was a toddler. It scared the shit out of me. The cold war was strong stuff. Even as late as my freshman year of high school I remember being paranoid about Nicaragua becoming the latest domino to fall to the Soviet Empire.

My wife tells me that when she was a kid in the Soviet Union, her greatest fear was of getting nuked my America. As a very small child she waved the red flag at parades.

When the Soviet Union, which was supposed to be godless, fell apart, my wife’s city of Baku Azerbaijan was besieged by roving gangs of young Muslim men intolerant of her family’s Christian religion and ethnic Armenian heritage. Her family had to flee. First to Armenia, then Russia. Then here to Burlington.

Nearly six years ago now, I placed an ad seeking a roommate in the Seven Days classifieds. My wife took the apartment, and we were engaged within three days. Her family watches this old Russian movie called “The Irony of Fate” at Christmas time.

The irony of fate. You can’t make this stuff up.

August 25, 2009   1 Comment

Tyranny on The Caspian

It’s very repressive to investigate people because of preferences in pop music. It’s repressive and in this case it’s also discriminatory. Thank you Dr. Maddow for reporting this last night.


MADDOW: In this country, we have “American Idol,” and its many spinoffs like “So You Think You Can Dance” and “America‘s Got Talent” and “Nashville Star,” et cetera. In Europe, they have “Eurovision” which, believe it or not, is a way bigger deal.

“Eurovision‘s” been broadcast every May since 1956. It‘s one of the longest running TV programs of all time. Each of 43 countries picks a musical act to represent that country and then millions of people vote for the winner. We have “Eurovision” to thank or blame, depending on your perspective, for Abba, for Celine Dion, for Julio Iglesias, for Cliff Richard and even for the poor river dance who can‘t move their arms.

Although only Europe participates, “Eurovision” has gained fans and grown its audience worldwide because it frankly is an Olympic-grade display of truly over-the-top, “I can‘t believe this is really happening” kitsch.

But there‘s no news about this year‘s Eurovision contest that is way darker than your usual, you know, Belgium versus Holland, sequins versus satin shriek-off. Azerbaijan and Armenia fought a war 15 years ago over a region called Nagorno-Karabakh – don‘t worry, there‘s no spelling test here.

The important point is that both countries are still really sore about it. And they‘re right on top of each other and there‘s an Azerbaijan enclave right in the middle of Armenia, everything that is a sore issue between these two.

In the “Eurovision” contest this year, both of these countries did pretty well. Azerbaijan came in third. Armenia came in 10th. Here‘s Armenia from this year.


Now, you see why I‘m into this. All right. This was the Azerbaijan entry.


MADDOW: So good. Sorry. Which of those would you vote for? Hard to choose. But the BBC reports today that now, three months after “Eurovision” – because remember, it happens in May, police in Azerbaijan have called in for questioning people who live in Azerbaijan but who voted for Armenia, the country‘s archrival.

Apparently, they know for sure somehow that 43 people in Azerbaijan voted for the dreaded Armenians. You vote by text message. And the Azerbaijani national security ministry has been calling people who voted for Armenia in for questioning.

The national security ministry has confirmed that they‘ve done this to Reuters. They have confirmed that they are questioning Azerbaijanis for the crime of voting for the wrong song, which is, of course, another reason why “Azerbaijani Idol” is going to stink.


August 21, 2009   Comments Off

Old vs. Young

It’s too bad I had to go straight back into my life after my trip to Armenia. I haven’t had time to do the pure, immediate post journey things that would be ideal. A forenzinc documentation and duplication of every photo and video I took. A lot more writing about it while it’s still fresh in my mind. Oragnizing and contacting my contacts there. That sort of thing.

Instead interrupting between Armenia and me now are Morning Joe, the unkempt people on Church Street. My job of course. And all the things about my regular life here in Burlington. And there is something different about everything now, almost as if everything has been replaced with an exact replica of itself. It’s the same but different.

August 7, 2009   Comments Off


I just took my first to Armenia. It was a familial and religious pilgrimage, so it gets its own blog.

August 4, 2009   2 Comments

On Beards and The All-Bran 10 Day Challenge

I’m picturing a bumper sticker with a clip-art graphic of Jesus taking a swath out of his beard with a disposable razor under the caption “Jesus Shaves.” I finally shaved mine off today, 26 days after my mother died. Not the full Armenian 40 days, but long enough. My mother was English.

A friend of mine named John McEnroe (“You cannot be serious!”) has issued me the “All-Bran 10 Day Challenge.” I don’t think I can eat bran because I’m gluten intolerant. I will make an effort to get more fiber in my diet though, John. And I’ll buck up too. Thanks for caring.

February 9, 2008   Comments Off

Shofar (but not so good)

Rejected again. This time by the Temple Sinai in South Burlington. I had an interview Monday to be their administrative assistant. I guess I screwed it up like I always do. Tell me if this qualifies as a Larry David moment:

I’m sitting there talking to the rabbi- one thing leads to another and I end up mentioning that my father was in a Nazi concentration camp in World War II. “The Nazis were evil people.” said the rabbi. After a thoughtful pause I responded “…Well, they didn’t have the right idea.”

Poopsie thinks I blew it right there. “You’re talking to a RABBI!” She said later, exasperated. “You’re supposed to say “Yes! They were totally evil.” You’re supposed to talk about how evil they were!”

But I just can’t do that. I’m with Anne Frank in believing that deep down people are really good. Yes, their deeds were evil. Yes, their ideas were evil. But to say a person himself is evil is ultimately to write off his soul forever, and I don’t think that’s the right thing. Things are not so simple. Most Nazi’s were normal Germans swept up in a horrible circumstance. I’m sure that under similar pressures, a LOT of Americans would behave like the “good Germans,” but through the good fortune of being born in a different time and place, they will never be considered evil by anyone. Also, there was definitely a German soldier or two that slipped my dad food when he was their prisoner, and later when he was their slave. They kept him alive when they could have killed him. I don’t think it’s ever as simple as “they were evil.”

Anyway, the guy at the temp agency that sent me there said they hired someone “with previous synagogue experience.” So I’m probably just projecting the reasons for my failure to get hired. But shit. If an Armenian son of a Holocaust survivor with two college degrees and lots of clerical experience can’t get hired as an temporary administrative assistant at a synagogue for $10/hr, then I pray Rita Markley saves a cot for me and my family in the homeless shelter. Unemployment benefits only last six months and I’m three months into it.

January 7, 2008   Comments Off