Lost in Translation or Just Simply Lost?

By Skeptik Sininkian

Remember growing up watching those nature specials about the life of the lion or the zebra where the narrator had a deep baritone voice? The ones where–after a lingering shot of a bunch of lions in a huddle–the narrator would finally chime in and say something like–"Simba–the dominant male–will demonstrate his place amongst the pride by eating from the wildabeast carcass first." I miss those programs. Now that was reality television worth watching. Now imagine a similar program about Armenia’s–especially Armenia’s living in Glendale–California. Because–between you and me–Armenia’s in Glendale deserve their own documentary–if for no other reason–so that other Armenia’s visiting Glendale from other parts of the United States (i.e. Boston–New York–Detroit–and Burbank) will understand the nature of this enigma wrapped in a riddle–wrapped in a puzzle.

I don’t know why–but the more I think I understand my community–something happens that completely confuses me to no end. Last week–my confusion was compounded by the fact that a friend of mine from the east coast flew out for a visit. It was his first time in California and for the brief time he was out here–I began to wonder about things that I had simply grown accustomed to. For instance–why do elderly Armenia’s choose to wear nothing but black while crossing streets with no designated crosswalks in the middle of the night? If you’ve ever driven in Glendale after the sun sets–then chances are you know what I’m talking about. The worst part is that after you come to a screeching halt–inches from making some poor dadig a hood ornament–they begin yelling at you–as if it’s your fault for not wearing US Marine issued night vision equipment while driving at the designated speed limit on residential streets.

This mystery becomes more complex when you see how most of my young adult compatriots drive. I’m not saying that Armenia’s are bad drivers. But a 16 year old kid with highlighted hair–driving a 70,000 dollar German luxury car–or a tricked-out (that means modified for anyone reading this who only understands English) Japanese sports car? Yes–he is a bad–bad–bad driver who must sadly suffer from dyslexia and misunderstands the "25 MPH" sign clearly posted for public view. I shudder to think that they’re actually out there looking for the dadigs in black.

"It’s like driving in a video game," commented my pale friend as his white knuckled hand clenched the upper handle of my car door. "Don’t these people follow traffic laws?"

"What? People drive worse in Italy and France!" I retorted in defense of my precious Jewel City of Glendale. I responded without even turning to look at my petrified friend because I was avoiding a middle-aged Armenian mother driving a massive ten ton luxury SUV–who was pulling out of the Glendale Galleria without signaling and giving everyone dirty looks for thinking they could have the right of way. I slammed on the brakes to avoid another dadig who jumped out of nowhere–crossing the crosswalk illegally.

Apparently red is the color of progress in the former Soviet Union and means "March Forward!" What was I thinking?

Driving in Glendale aside–let me present another mystery to you. My Amerigahye (born in America) friend doesn’t speak Armenian very well. OK–let me rephrase that. The Korean dry cleaner down the street from me knows more Armenian than he does. But it never bothered me. I’ve never questioned his Armenianness. But when I took him to a social gathering with mostly Armenia’s–I couldn’t help but overhear commen’s to him like–"How come you don’t speak Armenian if both your parents are Armenian?" Or–"Don’t you think you should learn Armenian if you want to raise an Armenian family?" It was interesting to hear these commen’s coming from people who couldn’t even name the villages in historic Armenia that their grandparents came from–and whose idea of being an active Armenian means not missing out on any Armenian social mixer on any given weekend. My friend on the other hand–has no access to such mixers in the city where he lives–yet is always the first to forward an article pertaining to Armenia or the Armenia’s whenever it is published. He forwards email action alerts to me from the Armenian National Committee with such ferocity that I’ve contemplated reporting him as sending spam. But poor soul–he can’t speak Armenian. What difference does it make? None to me–as long as he’s informed and active. I’d rather have ten friends like him than a gaggle of Armenian speaking misanthropes talking about cars and money–in the tongue of Krikor Naregatsi (Gregory of Nareg).

By the way–the same folks who complain about my friend’s inability to speak Armenian–also complain about the Armenian Orthodox Church service being "out of style" because it’s delivered in Krapar–Classical Armenian. So my activist friend has to learn Armenian to gain acceptance by the socialites of LA–but everyone else doesn’t have to learn "krapar" for eternal salvation. Maybe if I think about it harder it might make sense. (Sigh).

Here’s another thing. My "whitewashed" friend can dance most traditional Armenian dances and to the appropriate accompanying music. When I say he can dance–I mean it. He can shoorch bar and Tamzara like there’s no tomorrow. You should have seen the excited look on his face when I told him we were going to an "Armenian" dance–followed by the look of utter disappointment when we finally got there. He stood there in silence–staring at the sea of Armenia’s flailing their arms in random patterns by themselves on the dance floor–to music with Arabic and Persian techno beats. I wish I had taken a before and after photo. He looked like a kid who was promised a hamburger for lunch–expecting to have McDonald’s–but was then given a kufte sandwich in pita bread with Tahini sauce. By the way–this was my mother’s version of the home made "Big Mac" when I was growing up. True story.

There are many other things that I look at now and can’t understand. Like–why is it a deadly sin for an Armenian child to contemplate moving out of the house before the age of thirty–or going to college somewhere further than an hour drive from Glendale/home? Or as my friend put it–"Why do Armenian parents dress like rejects from the "Sopran’s" when going out in public?" He commented on this when we saw a couple–man wearing a baby blue velvet jogging suit–and wife in leopard print tube top and black tights–picking their child up from school. By the way–my friend is from New Jersey–so I don’t question his ability to recognize mafia look-alikes.

These are things that we take for granted because we live with it every day. And perhaps–I’ve been a little harsh on my compatriots yet again. But when seen through the eyes of an outsider–it does beg questioning. I know there’s something out there that really bothers you. Maybe you’ve complained about it to a few friends–but never publicly–because you’re afraid of seeming elitist or prejudiced. Here’s your chance. Email me and tell me what your pet peeves are–and I’ll bring them for discussion in this column. Until next time–keep on truckin’ but watch the road for random dadigs.



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