Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A taxi driver in Echmiadzin was his usual entertaining self: “See those men standing on the steps of St. Hripsime church? They were talking about Serge Sargsyan’s remarks about Armenia not wanting a war but would fight if necessary, and how they were all ready to join the fight. I know them,” he laughed, “they’re all good-for-nothings. But one of them was saying something interesting. He said he heard that Hovik Aprahamyan received his new position as a result of a wager, beating Serge Sargsyan at a game of cards. Sounds kind of strange, but usually there’s something to what people are saying. And…I heard on Russian news that when Putin was in Yerevan he ate aveluk (spinach-like greens that taste something like a goat or sheep would smell) for the first time, and ever since, he has aveluk shipped to him in Russia.”

Later, reaching Yerevan, I had the opportunity to see the new statue of William Saroyan, located across the street from the Yervand Kochar museum near the Opera building. My first impression of the statue, which I had seen the day before while passing by in transport, was unfortunately at least somewhat accurate, as the statue is in the worst possible location, next to the sidewalk and in front of some rides for children, and was hardly a great work of art. It was obvious the sculptor hadn’t understood Saroyan, the man and the writer, as he looked more like a detective than a writer, with the head too narrow and the shoulders more like Napoleon’s than Saroyan’s. On the humorous side, two boys around 10 years old who were walking down the sidewalk approached me, and asked if Saroyan was my father. “Almost,” I answered, which sent the boys off smiling.

Finally reaching home, I was in time to see an interview by a journalist known as Petros, who has a show on Kentron, as he was talking with an Armenian rock star and Sprot, an infamous pop star being mentioned as a possible candidate for this year’s Eurovision. Although saying nothing negative to the two stars, Petros tore into the recent National Music Awards show, saying not only was most everything pre-determined, but asked why Nazeni Hovhanissyan did the announcing, that she emcees everything in Armenia, saying, “Isn’t there anyone else in Armenia? Did you see the way she was dressed? It looks like her lips are more swollen every time I see her. And if the Ministry of Culture thinks that by having a classical quartet perform, while the awards show was 99% pop stars, that somehow culture is in good shape in Armenia, they should know they’re not fooling anybody. Go to the restaurants and see what people are listening to. We’re buried in garbage, and they, the Ministry, know it.”

Late at night, a friend who leans toward political activism called, saying he had gone to the most recent court hearing for those imprisoned for their supposed roles in last year’s March 1 events. “The hearing didn’t take place, since the accused refused to stand when the judge entered the room,” he said. “I plan on going to the next scheduled hearing, and to the protest rally on March 1 too.” When I asked if he thought it would be safe going to the rally, he replied, “Of course. The authorities won’t dare repeating what they did last year. They’re on their knees to Europe. They know they’ll lose everything if they get out of line.”

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