Tidbits from The DINER

By TATUL As I entered Costa’s Diner for a quick yet filling breakfast–that was to keep me going until dinnertime–I noticed my old friend Marty sitting in a corner booth. Marty has been a fixture at the Diner as far back as I remember. Over the years–this landmark eatery has changed several owners–somehow keeping its basic Greek menu and character.

Marty is usually seen breaking bread with his close friend Arty–but today he was having his Greek coffee alone–looking a bit under the weather–sitting in a corner booth with his usual pile of newspapers scattered on a table large enough to accommodate four. He invited me to share it with him.

"Marty–you look a little tired," I said as I squeezed into the seat facing him. Are you OK?"

"I am a little. . . bushed," he hesitated–staring at the front page of the newspaper on top of the pile–where large photos of Bush and Kerry took up the top half of the page. Noticing that I too was looking at the contenders’ smiling pictures–he kind of smirked and shook his head.

"Heckle and Jeckle," I joked–sensing his disapproval and annoyance. "Don’t let it bother you–we’re all in the same boat."

He looked at me for a moment–seeking a measure of seriousness in my demeanor.

"Not quite," he said–"Heckle and Jeckle were harmless–bumbling cartoon characters–funny looking birds that made us laugh when we were kids. This," he said poking the pictures with a forefinger the size of a nachwurst–"is more like ‘Flim-Flam’ riding a white elephant and ‘Flip-Flop’ trotting after him on a lame donkey–while the boat–as you put it–is leaking!"

I chuckled and told him it was very well put–and that I agreed with him wholeheartedly. Seeing the waitress standing over me–I quickly ordered a western omelet and some orange juice; I wanted to hear Marty’s obviously strong feelings on the ramifications of the impending ordeal of US presidential elections.

Marty took a quick sip of his coffee and pulled out another paper from the pile–and pointed at a news item about the worsening situation in southern Sudan–under Secretary of State Powell’s picture; with a bold lettered heading stating: "Powell Calls Massacres In Sudan GENOCIDE."

"Well?" I said–after glancing at it–"What’s the problem?"

"What. . . is the problem. . . ?" he repeated in obvious amazement–"Is that all you have to say?"

"Well," I said–"it seems to me that–based on all available information on the tragic events–the Secretary of State has made the right assessment. . . don’t you agree?"

"That is not the point. . . !" he growled–"whether you or I agree; it may very well be a genocide–but with what moral authority–an administration that consistently denies and obstructs the recognition of the planned murder of one and a half million Armenia’s as genocide–suddenly–decides to call the Sudanese massacres ‘Genocide’ while still calling the Armenian genocide ‘Massacres.’ Can you explain that to me?"

We were both silent for a minute–lost in unyielding memories and dark–tormenting thoughts that lead to the perennial frustration and anger of the diasporan Armenian. Marty broke the silence:

"You know what?" he said–"As much as I don’t trust any politician–I have to say–that when a ‘flop’ side is leading to disaster–there is nothing wrong in heading to the ‘flip’ side–even if one has to ride a lame donkey to do it."

"Amen!;" I replied–"No more flim-flam!" and I washed down the last bite of the omelet with orange juice–thinking how much better it would taste with some vodka in it.


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