“I’ve always liked the bar business,” says Jack while sitting at an outdoor café during the last warm days of an Indian summer. At forty years old, he’s in a midlife crisis of deciding on a new career that will keep up his passion for life going forward.
A group of mature women, in their late 50’s, perhaps 60’s, is clustered on the sidewalk on yet another hot autumn day. The weather is better suited for a mid summer beach vacation than an average Thursday in September. It evokes the feeling of lazy summer afternoons where one has nothing better to do than be just bored.
A petite girl with ivory skin, rosy cheeks and eyes that take up a third of her face, Arda is a fresh faced 19 year old about to embark on the quintessential university adventure. After a summer of putting in a few hours a week at the family business she is getting ready to go for her first “real” job interview.
“Do you believe true love exists?” asked Aileen with her heavy Barsgahye (Persian Armenian) accent as she sat across from me at a candlelit table on a cool summer night. In her mid fifties, Aileen is immaculately turned out for the evening’s festivities. The conversation till then had been light and polite chit chat that is usual amongst people who had just met. That’s why I was started by her rather personal question.
“I am Armenian, so of course I am obsessed with laser hair removal! Arms, bikini, legs, underarms…my entire body is hairless.” This is the latest quote from Kim Kardashian who will grace the cover of the September 2010 issue of Allure magazine. Just in case you just emerged from the jungles of Borneo, Kim Kardashian is the oldest daughter of attorney Robert Kardashian who famously assembled OJ Simpson’s criminal defense team. She was known as Paris Hilton’s sidekick and emerged from Paris’ shadows only when, a few years ago, a sex tape of her with Ray J, an R&B singer, exploded onto the media circuit.
“I always see the glass as half full,” Hrair says. “We have to ask ourselves why it isn’t full. Is there a leak at the bottom or are we not filling it enough?” He is using the metaphor as a stand-in for the state of the community. His perspective is that we are operating in the dark as to who exactly makes up the Armenian community. “My thing is that we have no data on our community. No organization, school or business has this data to be able to make decisions accordingly.”
Suzy, in her early thirty’s, has the classic Armenian features of long dark hair, almond shaped eyes framed by a dense fringe of dark lashes and light olive skin. Having been born in Beirut, Lebanon, she moved to Boston with her family while still a child. Now settled in Watertown, the Armenian enclave of the city, she is in the same situation as many others, looking for employment while staying active in the rest of life and maintaining a positive outlook.
In the 1920’s the Ottomans began to purge Izmir (then Smyrna) of its Greek and Armenian residents. The residents, fleeing the burning buildings, found themselves at the harbor. It was the end of the line and, with nowhere else left to flee the sword, they began to dive into the water of the Mediterranean.
There are so many polar opposites where one side can only exist in the presence of the other. Arctic: Antarctic. Black: White. Tall: Short. But occasionally, although some things seem to be opposites, they are simply variations of the same. Los Angeles: New York. Lakers: Celtics. Apostolic: Catholic.
Hovhaness sits across the tiny table from me as he begins his story. His head is shaved clean except for his thick eyebrows over his piercing eyes and long lashes. He is somewhere in his mid forties, solidly built with a calm demeanor with a steady and piercing gaze. He is a lucky green card lottery winner from Yerevan who moved to Los Angeles three years ago with his wife Sonia and sons Haik and Kevork.
How do you describe the totality of a painting when your nose is pressed close to a small corner of it? That is the dilemma I face about the idea of writing about my father. It’s nearly impossible to move beyond the emotions when trying to use words to describe the things that make him special. Finally, in the quiet space between lights out and the blissful unconsciousness of sleep that they finally string themselves together.