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Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Love

I often listen to Armenian music in my car. I normally can't do this at home because my husband protests that most of the songs I listen to are too sad, or my daughter remembers that she could actually listen to music on the CD player and wants to change it. Any way, some things are better done in solitude. The beauty of most the songs I listen to amaze me, specially the very old folk songs or songs by Sayat Nova. At least with the latter we know who the author is but with the folk songs the authors are always unknown. For a nation who was persecuted, massacred, and driven from her homeland for centuries the existence of this much profound poetry is nothing short of a miracle. When you listen you can picture the natural beauty of the land, the people's dreams, their pain and suffering and yet there is always hope, pride, and gratitude. Through the musical instruments used, I can hear the brooks gurgling, the sparkle of the springs, the cry of a broken heart. Through the words I can picture lake Sevan shimmer, Araz river overflow, spring come and snow fall. It breaks my heart to hear a song in which a mother tells her son to grow and become a solder to fight for the defenseless Armenian nation and only then she would bless him. In one song a mother is praising her daughter's beauty and wants her to go out into the field to fetch water knowing she might be kidnapped or worse but wants her to enjoy life and the new spring. Evey song I hear is testimony to the tortured life the Armenians lived under Turkish rule. The threat of raids, mass murders or forced deportations were everyday life occurrences and yet they made poetry and song that lifts the spirit and makes me understand the purpose of humankind. Since I can remember and had a sense of self I have been proud of my nation, of my people, only by knowing more about everything Armenian I have fallen in love all over again. I regret everyday that I don't live in Armenia and I yearn that someday I shall. Every single song and poetry or book that I read reminds me that my final destination is Armenia. I want to live and die among people who have such rich cultural heritage and have given me such joy my entire life.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Without Memories




I remember our mountainsides
The cool gurgling of the springs
The eternal fires of the shepherds
My mountain deer lovers' black eyes

Hazy mountains, breezy mountains
Bring my childhood back
Sea of flowers mountains...

I remember my mothers' voice
The sheep grazing on the rocks
The sweet sound of the shepherd's flute
Sitting under the dark clouds

Hazy mountains, breezy mountains
Bring my childhood back
Sea of flowers mountains...

Our mountain flowers are in my heart
Their sweet smell is in my heart
Flower scented, mountain air drenched
Our song's springs are in my heart

Hazy mountains, breezy mountains
Bring my childhood back
Sea of flowers mountains...

Lyrics by Gooson Ashod
Translated from Armenian by
Armine Zohrabian


Who are we without our memories? I wasn't raised in the mountains of Armenia which I regret immensely, but the song speaks to my yearnings of my childhood in the dusty streets of Arak. I remember our quaint small church, the kindergarten, our school, the pageantry of our New Year celebrations, the tall Christmas tree, the Santa Clause and his sack full of goodies. Our school chorus singing enthusiastically year after year all the wonderful songs that filled our hearts with pride and deep sorrow. The songs we sang gave us visions of a motherland we had never seen. We sang about heroes we had never met, sacrifices they made we could never be fortunate enough to make. But in general we were happy children, we had good parents, good teachers, a peaceful predictable life. The years rolled by and we always celebrated New Year, Christmas, Easter and all the other big and small traditional Armenian holidays. Every year in elementary school when the school year was over on our way home we would throw away our old notebooks and take off our uniform before getting home and then our summer adventures would begin. For me and my sisters it was playing hide and seek in the evenings with our cousins, it was bicycle rides at nights and playing endless games of tag and dodge ball. We payed house and school and we had lots of dolls. But what I most liked about summers, was that I could read to my hearts' content. After tiring of games I would stand in front our large library and would chose a fat volume. Sometimes I would ask my fathers' opinion and he would gladly recommend something. I mostly loved historical epics. It was awe inspiring to read about Armenian history, our great past civilizations and dynasties, all the great battles and minor wars. I learned who I was and where I came from through these books. They gave me self confidence and self worth. They were the building blocks of my cultural education. I read other books also, books by well known Russian, English and French writers. Every time my father would go to the capital, Tehran he would bring new books along with dolls and clothes. And then, there were our friends, school friends, friends from youth groups and cultural organizations. Friends that shared our school days, summers and winters and everything else in between. We partied together, danced and sang together and grew up together. Friends that even after thirty years of separation still remember each other and are happy to see each other and say hello. We would all be hollow soles without our memories of the past. We are who we are today because of who we were then. 

I miss everyone and everything in my childhood but, that's life.                   






Thursday, October 9, 2008

Unanswered Questions

I was probably 5 years old. I don't remember why but I was standing in our enormous garden that had a big green wooden gate and I was calling my mom who was in the house 200 feet away from me. I kept calling mom mom mom mom mom mom. I called so much that that the word mom lost its meaning. Suddenly I realized that I wasn't calling anymore, I was thinking who made up the word mom? Why are we supposed to call this individual mom? Who was the first person who used it it? I thought about it for a long time but had no answers. Another day my sister and I were talking I was maybe 6 or 7 and she was 10 years old. I asked her if she knew what God was. I remember clearly what she did. She put a dot on a piece of paper with her pencil and said, "Do you see this dot? no matter how small anything is in this world God can see it, you can't hide anything from God". I already had enough religious education from my church and school that I knew that God was supposed to be this almighty being, who was loving, forgiving and most importantly punishing the evil, person. My next question to her was "If this is true, how could God let the Turks kill one and a half million Armenians who had built one thousand and one churches in the city of Ani, who were the first nation on Earth to accept Christianity? Why was I praying every night and asking God to keep my mom and dad and sisters and brothers safe and healthy, obviously God didn't have the power to do that." I don't remember what my sister's answer was, it must not have been convincing enough because I stopped praying and stopped believing in Gad from that moment. I asked my sister recently if she remembered that conversation and she said no. I suppose the reason I remember it so clearly is because that was a turning point in my life.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I'm Still thinking

The last day I worked was August 27 so I have not been driving much. As my blog name implies I did much of my thinking when I was driving to and from work. But even though I haven't been driving I haven't stopped thinking. The only difference is that I have a lot more time to think. Not that I want to, I just do. When you don't have to occupy yourself with a paying job and you are home alone, you think. I think when I'm watching TV, I think when I'm washing dishes or cleaning the toilet. I think when I water the plants or clean the pool. I think before I fall sleep and as soon as I wake up. I always wake up between 6 and 7 and the first thing I do is make coffee. The second thing I do is to take my coffee and cigarettes to my patio and sit in my usual chair, drink coffee and smoke, smoke and drink until I think I'm awake. 

This is where all the thinking starts. I look at all the trees in my back yard and think what possessed my husband to plant all these fruit trees so close to each other. We have 3 pomegranate trees, 3 figs, 3 lemons, 2 apricots, one orange, one persimmon, one pear, and one grape vine. You would think we don't have to pay a penny  for fruits all summer but we do. There are so many other fruits that we like to eat specially melons which are my husband's favorites. 

I think about my fruitless job hunt and wounder how long I can survive without one. I think about the heartless corporation that I used to work for that forced me to quit when the going got tough. I think about the CEO s who line their pockets with millions as their companies are going belly up. I think about the mortgage brokers who sold loans to anyone who asked just to make commissions, and caused the state we are in today, with the same people not being able to pay their obligations and bankrupting major banks. Most of us like to think that people get what they deserve but that is not true. The more I think about things in general the more I believe that life has never been fair. It wasn't fair for Al Gore to lose the election, it wasn't fair for George Bush to become president twice. It wasn't fair that Elvis died so soon or John Lennon to be killed. 

The trees in my back yard are twisted and overgrown just to get some sunshine and that is not fair either.               

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Price We Paid

When I was a kid I read Uncle Tom's Cabin and that was the first time I understood racism. I was also subject to it in Iran when in high school some of our Muslim teachers suggested we convert from Christianity to Islam. When I came to America in 1975 I thought that racism was a thing of the past. I thought that since slavery was abolished and later by the passage of Civil Rights every one in America enjoyed the same rights and was treated equally in all aspects of their life, careers, schooling, politics. Little did I know. Even though I lived in Iran only until I was 19 years old, I knew that Armenians were a minority, we were well tolerated and we lived side by side, equal but led separate lives. I knew that the Jewish  people were not liked but the last Prime Minister of Iran in the Shah's time was Jewish. In 1979 with the hostage crisis all the Iranian students, Muslim and Christian were subject to profiling, finger printing, and having our mug shots taken. After that anyone that found out we were from Iran was hostile towards us. It did not matter that we were not politically active, or that we were here when the hostages were taken, what mattered was that we were from the same country. 

In my last vacation I visited Armenia and saw a lot of Iranian Muslims that had established businesses there. At first I was resentful and angry. I thought that the government should not allow this. Then I thought, wait a minute isn't this what we Armenians and half of the world population is doing in America? We come here get educated, get married, have kids, get jobs, and if anyone tries to curtail our freedoms we raise hell. People move about, they go where they can find employment, happiness and freedom. We do not live in an ideal world. An ideal world has never existed and never will. Some countries have diamonds, some have oil, some have cheep labor or strategic advantages. The rule of the jungle still applies. The powerful take advantage of the weak. The powerful colonize, invade, and occupy the weaker countries. All people and governments want to survive and they will do anything to that end. 

My husband and I came to the US to study, get a degree and go back to Iran. We didn't go back because Iran had a revolution, threw out their king who was a US puppet, and established Islamic law.  Both our parents advised us to stay put. We felt lonely, uprooted, unwanted and unloved. We didn't come here to stay. We had temporary lives through out our student days. We didn't buy real cars or furniture. The junk that the graduating students left behind became our stuff. We were frugal because we felt that the money that our parents sent us was only for tuition and not for leisure. And now that the time had come to go home we couldn't. We missed so much of our family life. Our sisters and brothers got married and had kids that we never saw. Christmases and Esters lost all meaning without our families. They suffered and we suffered and no matter how many letters or phone calls we were home sick all the time. But in time the pain got dull and we got on with our lives. We became citizens, had jobs paid taxes and voted. All this time our names, our faces and our accents made us targets for bigotry and discrimination. Sure there are numerous prominent Armenians in the U.S. they must have overcame enormous obstacles or have had fantastic luck or well placed friends, but us, the average immigrants aren't so lucky. We always need to work harder, be smarter, have more education and wait longer or forever for that brass ring. Why do you think most immigrants have their own businesses? Because they have a much harder time getting jobs, becoming managers, or CEOs. Today in America the minorities that supposedly have some legal protection against discrimination are the African Americas and the Mexicans/Latinos. The Europeans are in vogue because of their unique English accent as evidenced in their increasing numbers on TV.  The rest of us who might have come here from any Middle Eastern country, Arab country, or any where else not too familiar to Americans, we suffer discrimination daily in our lives. Most of us keep our mouths shot because we think we are lucky enough to be here and that in itself should be enough. I personally feel like an unwanted distant relative barely tolerated and try to make my presence very inconspicuous. 

I used to be a proud member of my family and clan and had no feelings of inferiority, but living in this country for 33 years has changed my psyche. Because of covert discrimination I have become very cynical, non trusting, bitter and resentful. I have never felt that I belong, included or free. This is the price I paid.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Black Complex

Recently I got got an email directing me to a news story about an Armenian gang who call themselves Armenian Power. From what I gathered was that they were involved in debit card fraud by stealing card numbers and pin codes and taking millions of dollars from the victims. The reporter also said that apparently the leader orchestrated the whole operation from prison. Then there were pictures of the gang leader and the members with their shaved heads and tattoo  covered bodies. I was so overwhelmed by so many different emotions that even I was surprised of my reaction. I was furious, disgusted, ashamed, and very saddened. True I've been known to overreact to certain issues or situations but in all honesty that was me a long time ago. Like most people who have heard or seen a lot, I'm also desensitized and almost nothing shocks me anymore. But seeing these young Armenian thugs was very unsettling. To me they are a bunch of Black-gang wannabe criminals. Actually they dressed more like Mexican gangs.  What made my blood boil was the use of the Armenian flag in their insignia. How pathetic that they use their genius to commit crimes that they surely know will land them in prison one day. Why couldn't they use that creativity to start a new "Google" or "Yahoo" or"My Space" or any thing else that would make them billions without committing crime. How dare these scums use the sacred tricolor as their symbol. What unfortunate parents sire them and did not teach them the history of the great Armenian nation, and the long, bloody and tortured road it has taken to finally be an independent country and be able to fly that beloved flag. I'm secure in my knowledge that they do not represent the Armenian community in the Unites States or in Armenia. I know full well that we have the full spectrum of respected and honorable professions represented by American-Armenians. Anyone worth their salt knows that. That is not what upsets me. What upsets me is their use of the word Armenian and the flag. They can call themselves "A Bunch of Crooks", "Criminal Bastards",  "The None Achievers" or the best one yet "Mommy I Think I'm Black". Oh another thing, the reporter said that some of the criminals are here illegally or have been deported and added that unfortunately the government of Armenia says they are not her citizens. Needless to say most governments would deny their citizenship too, but I think they may be citizens of the other ex-soviet republics but just because they have Armenian last names they are thought of as Armenian citizens. As far as I'm concerned they could all go to hell.                      

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Complicated Relationships

I've told my sister to call me when her grandchildren are visiting, I mean when she is baby sitting which is almost every day considering she has 5. So she called me last Sunday to say the youngest who is 1 year and 6 months old was there. I told her I would go since I was going to her neighborhood to see our niece who was visiting from Chicago. As I was driving, I though to myself "I can't believe I'm driving with the sole purpose of seeing a toddler who won't know or won't care who I am when she grows up, after all I'm her grandmothers' sister." I didn't even see my own maternal and paternal grandmothers let alone know their sisters. It is so natural for me to love and care for anyone born to my nieces and nephews, that I never think about the relationship from their point of view. From where they stand, I'm and will be an old woman who they see at grandmas house all the time. They probably will wonder and doubt my love, it would be hard for them to believe that I love them so much and they mean so much to me. After all I've seen their moms and dads births, seen them grow from innocent babies to terrible toddlers to annoying children to horrid teens and to wonderful parents. I will love them all, the born and the yet unborn ones, I will enjoy them for as long as I can, I will hold and sing to them, take their pictures, go to their birthday parties and see them grow. When they grow up if I'm still around they can love me or live me. I will have had a life time of love and joy and they can't take that away from me then.          

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I have not had a best friend since tenth grade. I became friends with her in second grade in elementary school. I think what attracted me to her was because she was smaller than me and she looked like she needed protection. Not that I was much bigger or taller than her but because I was more assertive and self confident than she was. Basically we were inseparable. At school we sat by each other, in recess we played together, and after school we went to each other's house to do our homework. We did have other friends but they were all secondary. When we became teenagers, we shopped together, wore similar clothes and had the same hair cuts. We both liked to dance and our favorite group was the Beetles. She was always the sensible one and I was the hopeless romantic. Every summer I would fall in love with a new boy and she was the voice of reason and caution. We told each other everything, but now that I think about it maybe I told her everything and she kept secrets from me. She never fell in love or if she did she never told me about it. She was the kind of girl who could have guy friends and they felt comfortable around her. In junior high we had to choose a major, mine was Biology and she took Mathematics. I was helpless in Math, Algebra, Physics and Chemistry. She always tried to help me but I would get board and would make her stop. I would rather listen to music, talk about boys and daydream out loud. Amazingly we never had a quarrel. We did drift apart slowly when we both moved to a larger city. Even though we went to the same high school, we found other girls that were more like each of us. In reality we were total opposites and maybe in our new environment we had found our true soul mates. 
After graduating from high school I moved to the US and got married when I was 20 years old. She stayed behind got her Bachelor's and became an engineer. Much later she came to America but to a different state. She went for her Master's and eventually married and had kids in her thirties. She has a very important job in a large company. I do see her occasionally, I think we still care for each other very much but we almost have nothing in common. 
For thirty three years I have had lots of friends but no best friend. Each time I move or change jobs my friends change and despite promises of not losing touch we always do. I have seven sisters and I love them all dearly but none of them are my best friend. 
To me a best friend is someone who likes you just the way you are. A best friend laughs at your silly jokes and comments, she never tries to read between the lines. She respects your opinion and trusts your judgment. A best friend has enough courage to tell you the truth and you have sense enough not to get hurt. Best friends always make time for each other specially in time of stress and need. Life is hard without a best friend.                          

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Second Class

Today was a sad day for Hillary Clinton and for all women. I can almost feel her terrible disappointment, her intense sense of loss and cruel bitterness. The highest office in the land, the most influential position in the free world, the leadership of a super power was all within her grasp and she came so very close. But now it's all over. The opportunity of a lifetime is lost for her maybe forever. And she fought magnificently and gave it her all.  In my humble opinion the only reason Hillary lost is because of her husband Bill Clinton. The once esteemed, intelligent, educated, effective, lovable president who let his penis take over his brain (and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that ALL men are absolutely the same) and effectively ruined his presidency and made himself and his wife the butt of countless jokes and created an army of Clinton haters that poor Hillary never had a chance. Instead of standing by his side and defending him and accusing the Republicans  of framing her husband if she had left him and had admitted to herself and everybody else that he was a dirty, womanizing and amazingly stupid man, she would have the respect and admiration of most of the people that hate her today and caused her colossal loss. I am very happy that finally an African America man has a chance to be our president and Obama seems to have convinced enough people that he is capable of handling the most complicated and scary job on Earth.  I wish him well and hope that he will defeat McCain and become our next president. The point I want to make, is that again for the billionth time a woman has suffered because of the actions of a man. The reason we are still second class citizens is because people of this "enlightened" country still see a woman as an extension of her husband. Hillary Rodem Clinton lost because unfortunately she is Bill's wife.         

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

ALOHA

I just got back from a one week vacation in Hawaii. The first thing I noticed was that people in Hawaii drive much better and slower. Some of their freeways & highways are only 2 lanes but no one was in a great rush. Most people respected the speed limit which is still 55 mp and even 45 in some places. There were very few Hawaiians left, you only saw them if you went to a Luau, but they are not all Hawaiians they are Polynesians and Samoans. And then there is us, the tourists. Most were Japanese, Koreans and Chinese. Few Europeans and lots of Americans.The Polynesian women are sexy and the Samoan men burly. In my opinion the Hawaiian dances are boring and the food is bland. However they live in paradise and I envy them so much for that.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Yellow Straw Bag

Friday afternoon I'm driving home from work. I feel anger rising in me like a hot flash or maybe it is a hot flash I can't tell anymore. My boss had managed, yet again to insult my intelligence. When it happened I was so shocked and incredulous I couldn't say anything. But now in the car I had plenty to say. So while I'm driving in heavy traffic I pull out my company issue Blackberry turn it on put in my 8 digit pass code and dial his number. The dork answers. He has no life so he stays late Friday afternoons. I tell him I'm calling him because I'm very upset with him. He asks why. I said to him "actually I am livid". He asks "what's livid" English is not his mother tongue. I explain that it means furiously angry. Anyway what's important is that I'm going to lose my job. Not because my buss is stupid, not because I'm lazy, its the price of oil, it's the housing market, it's the interest rates, it's the recession. In a word "it's the economy stupid". I'm not making my sales goals, the corporate is not happy, I'm not thinking of the share holders, blah blah blah. I start dreaming about not working. How cool it would be? I will get up late, mope around the house in my robe and sleepers, drink coffee and smoke all I want, any time any where. I can watch day time soaps, catch up with Oprah and Dr. Phil. I see myself going to Santa Monica beach in the middle of the week, driving a convertible? I will carry a big yellow straw bag, I will be wearing a long white skirt and my long bleached hair will be blowing in the wind. Ooh, I'm in the heaven where women don't work, and have rich husbands who can afford health insurance. Finally I'm home, the dream is over. I will find another job, I have another 17 years to work so I'm looking forward to the $1700.00 a month I'll get from uncle Sam in 2025 so I can buy cat food. God bless America.                 

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Can't Choose Your Death


An infant
Suddenly dead in his crib.
My grandpa 
dying in his sleep
At hundred and six.
Women, dying  giving birth
Solders dying in battlefields.
Car accidents, plains falling
Some die crossing streets.
By stray bullet 
drive by shooting.
By Jeffrey Dahmer
Decapitating.
A fanatics' poisoned cool aid.
Cancer and Aids.
In a dumpster, in an alley
By teen parents.
Drowning, 
In the bathtub
Your schizo mother.
A hunting knife
By your athlete husband.
A snake bite,
A dog mulling.
In an earthquake
Buildings falling,
In wildfires and mudslides.
The gas chamber,
Electric chair
Firing squad
The guillotine.
Death by hanging
Lynching, dragging
Horse back riding.
Hang-gliding, train crossing
Striking lightning.
On the slops
By avalanche
In SUBMARINES
and Space Ships.
Death by torture,
Death by hunger,
Stoned to death.
An overdoes at twenty eight.
By your surgeon,
Mercy killings
By Doctor Death.
Suffocation
Mutilation
Liposuction
Mad Cow disease
Tylenol tampered
The Bird Flue, SARS
And suicide.
And on    and on
The list   goes on.
Which one's better?
Which is faster?
Which is painless?
Which one is fair?
You know, I know
We must all go
But we can't choose
How to exit
This damn world
Just like when
We didn't chose to enter it.
 
First written on September 22, 2001
Edited on March 29, 2008
 

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Motherless

The woman who gave birth to ten human beings died without even one of them by her side. Life is a bitch, too short for some and agonizingly long for others. Mom died one day short of her 90 Th birthday. My earliest memories of her are from when I was about 3 years old. I would watch her bathe my baby brother. I washed my babies just like her, washing their head first without immersing them in the tub. I would dry their head and then washed the rest of their body so they would not be cold too long. I remember going grocery shopping with her, to the butcher shop, the bakery, the fruit stand and my favorite, the European deli/candy/biscuit/powder milk shop. When we entered that place the rich aroma of freshly grounded coffee would great us. The dry salami and pastrami that mom would order would make my mouth water. Once when I was following her in the street I probably was daydreaming and I fell behind and when I realized it I started to scream and cry out for her. She was just a few steps ahead of me chatting with a friend. The first time ever I began to appreciate her was a month after I got married. Every single day I had to decide what to cook for my husband and me. I thought, boy she had to do this everyday and keep more than 10 people happy and have enough for unexpected guests that were a common occurrence in our family then. She was married at 17, had her first daughter at 19 but even at 40 when she had her last child, her golden son, she was an innocent. She loved my handsome father for as long as she was in her right mind but after getting Alzheimer's disease she could hardly remember his name. Slowly she lost most of her memory. People and objects lost their meanings for her. She started to forget to eat. It was sad to see her fading away. She was not the mom we used to know. We never loved her less it just was heart breaking to see her go even before she was gone. Mom, if my children love me today it's because of you. You taught me to be a good mom and a good wife. I have loved you as long as I can remember and will love you to the day I die. May you rest in peace to eternity
        

Sunday, March 9, 2008

No Time To Be

To feel you exist, you must think. To think, you must have time. To have time, you must have money because if you don't you should be working & if you are working you don't have time. Everything I do revolves around my work schedule. From every 24 hours in a day I work about 9 hours & spend 1 hour commuting. That leaves me 14 hours. I sleep about 6 hours, spend about 1 hour on grooming. Every morning it takes me 2 hours to get my daughter ready for school & dropping her off. Now I have 5 hours left. I need to cook, clean, shop, do laundry, pay bills, entertain my daughter, feed the dog & find some time for myself or maybe watch some TV or read. (Oh I forgot I'm married I need to talk to him too sometimes.) Granted I don't do all these things every day but all of them need to be done sometime. I either do them & have no time for any thing else or don't do them at all & live in squalor. The reality is that I do some things some time & worry the rest of the time about not doing those things. So basically I feel unproductive, overwhelmed & at the same time overworked. I know I'm starving my mind & intellect while at the same time not winning in the great rat race either. All this brings me back to my first sentence, TO FEEL YOU EXIST, YOU MUST THINK. Therefor because I don't think, because I don't have time, I DON'T EXIST.