Summer Summit

Moving into a new living space always comes with challenges.  New neighbors, environment, routines.  And in Yerevan, I always seem to find new creatures that disrupt my peaceful existence.

Not the neighbors, that’s my job to annoy them.  No, I’m talking about my friends in the bug world.

It’s amazing how such tiny creatures can cause large amounts of chaos.  It’s reported that bugs cause over 650,000 car accidents a year.  And I read a recent story about a person that burned down their house trying to get rid of a spider.

While I have used the burn and smolder technique to get rid of scorpions, it’s not a practice I would recommend for spiders.  I’m pretty sure I can’t grab a moving spider with chopsticks.

So, what to do.

Expecting that all bugs will leave the planet isn’t very realistic, technically, this is their home too.

And some of them do serve a higher purpose.  Shout out to the bees for the honey.  Goooo bees.

I decided to be pro-active this time to avoid any future unpleasantness.  Also, I can’t figure out how to put lighter fluid in my super extended length lighter, which equals no lighting anyone on fire for now.

Hence, a summit was called in my humble abode; and the result of several hours of negotiation produced the following:

At the conclusion of the recently convened Insect Human summit, organized in part by the Association for Insect Human Peace (AIHP); the participants issued the following statement:

Statement Issued by Insect/Human Summit 2017
Yerevan Armenia

1. We, the Designated Representatives of the Insects, and the Apartment Human of  Tumanyan 10, gathered for the 1st Insect and Human Summit in Yerevan on 25 May 2017 under the Chairmanship of the Apartment Human with the theme “Partnering for Peaceful Co-existence – No More Squishing or Scaring,” which envisions an integrated, peaceful, stable and resilient Tumanyan 10 Community that actively takes a leading role as a human to insect global player in advancing late night-security cooperation, sustainable blood pressure levels, and socio-cultural development in, and only in, the immediate area of the back exit to the building.

2. We engaged in productive and fruit-free deliberations reflective of our commitment to establish the enduring values of AIHP, in adherence to the purposes and principles enshrined in the Aygedzor Scorpion Declaration which launched AIHP in 2013, and to realize the six thematic priorities selected by the Apartment Human as AIHP’s main deliverables for 2017 namely: (a) A human-oriented and human-centered AIHP; (b) Peace and stability in the house; (c) Rain puddle security and cooperation; (d) Inclusive, innovation-led plant growth; (e) Establishment of a neutral zone balcony; and (f) AIHP: a model of regionalism, a global player.

3.  We willingly and without coercion signed the AIHP Declaration on the Community Summer Vision 2017, with the agreed upon points:

  • Human – All walking after 1:00 a.m. is confined to the hall area, except for UEFA Cup game nights.
  • Insects – A 1/2 meter no-fly zone is observed around the human’s head.
  • Human – Russian hairspray will only be deployed in emergency situations
  • Insects – Potted plant soil is not “the baby’s” room.
  • Human – Squishing will only be used if the capture and release method fails 2 consecutive attempts.
  • Insects – No sudden movements.
  • Human – Screaming at the lowest possible decibel level.
  • Insects – Crawling on the bedroom ceiling for purposes of mocking the short human will cease.
  • Human & Insects – All equally dislike the horse flies as they are assholes.

4. With regret we declare the balcony issues at an impasse, but pledge to continue negotiations, and in deference to said negotiations, human agrees to delay the purchase of any electronic pest control devices, aka “go towards the light”

* * * * * * * *

The End

It’s a Dog’s Life

So I had another neighbor encounter the other day.  But instead of just the usual tale of an awkward moment, this conversation provided me with some interesting information about myself.

Encounter #2

I was outside my apartment, standing in the hall locking my door, preparing to go out for my morning walk to the employee bus stop.  The neighbor opened the door at the same time, and his new puppy came bouncing out of the apartment to wag his tail at me.

Now, anybody that knows me will tell you that I have a problem with dogs.  I AM OBSESSED with them.  I’ll talk to them on the street, blow them kisses, wave, wink, squeal … Facebook style real life actions.

I also rarely acknowledge the human if there happens to be an owner.  Which is problematic when you stop on the street, have a conversation with a dog, give him a pat on the head, then flounce away when you’re done.

The pat is for the dog, not the owner that is.

Encounter #1

But I had already met this particular neighbor a few nights before. He’s on the same floor  and the owner of a new puppy.  And for days, I had been hearing his poor puppy cry his heart out every time the owner left.  A soulful wail of a faithful dog missing his master.

So on our first encounter it was this observation I explained to the neighbor.  He quickly apologized for the noise, which wasn’t my intent, so I explained that I just wanted him to know how sad the puppy was when he left the house, and that he was a loyal dog missing his company.

But there was no time for further conversation as I was running out to meet friends for our annual night walk up to the Genocide Memorial, and my taxi was already waiting, so I hurried away down the stairs.

After patting the puppy on the head of course.

I heard him say something as I was scurrying down, but I just muttered “ok” and kept going.

Back to Encounter #2

I petted the wiggly puppy trying to chew at my shoe, and again explained how much the dog loves his owner and cries constantly while he’s gone.

To which the owner replied, “All he does all day is shit and piss, and I have to clean after him all the time”.  This was when I noticed the roll of paper towels in one hand, and a garbage bag in the other.

And remembered that he had mentioned this before.

But the “before” was the eve of April 23rd, my mind had been elsewhere, and I don’t think I had responded to him about the pooping and peeing issue.

Unfortunately, I responded this time.

“Well you know, for a puppy, shitting and pissing is in his wheel house, it’s at the top of his skill set, so he’s demonstrating for you his top proficiency.”

As the words were leaving my mouth, I could almost see them.  An out-of-body experience of lunacy.

And I wish that I could say that my tone was comical, or chiding (to the puppy), or cutesy, or anything else but business-level management-mode serious.

But I can’t.

The finale to encounters #1 and #2 was to avoid eye contact with the human, pat the puppy, and make a quick exit down the stairs.


In hind sight, these encounters actually provided me with some valuable insight into my brain.

  1.  I see puppies as being mindful creatures with résumés – why else would I be tossing around buzz-word bullet points?
  2. I lose all perspective when I see/am in the presence of/or talk about puppies – there’s no cure for this, I might as well own it.
  3. When I converse in English outside of a social setting, I revert to business mode – English is absolutely the trigger, since I never revert to business mode when fielding engagement proposals from gold-toothed taxi drivers.
  4. I like to classify life in order of #1 and #2 situations – but doesn’t everyone?


When you’re self-employed, you have the privilege of assigning yourself just about any title you want.  Founder, President, CEO…

But truly, so boring.

My personal favorite was futurologist, until I found out it’ a real thing. Well, not a real thing, real thing, but still something that has nothing to do with a crystal ball.

But in addition to the standards, I’ve also seen “Influential” “Top” “Super” “Ultimate” listed as a title qualifier. Now we’re talking.  People showing a little creativity!

But why stop there? We’re all self-employed in our own life stories, why shouldn’t we have titles for everyday?

And in our own time as mortals, we carry out numerous tasks at different times, so I think multiple titles are in order.

  • Countess of Commute – for taking public transportation or a taxi
  • Grand Pooba of Procurement – for shopping
  • Fat Cat of Curtsy – for mingling with important people
  • Duchess of Dilettante  – for interacting with neighbors
  • Head Honcho Hobo – for travelling to far-away places.
  • Cardinal Puppet Master  – for organizing social events (and the calendar’s of friends)
  • Illustrious Imagineer – for daydreaming about grand schemes
  • Bon Vivant – actually, I’ve got nothing, I just like to say this with a snotty accent.

In case you’re wondering, I’ve already check on LinkedIn, no such options exist for life titles.  Foolish move, people need validation.

And for the petty people I encounter, (we’ve all got them in our realm) I’m happy to pre-assign titles:

  • Admiral AssHat – For the ones that think they’re always right
  • Blabby Blabberian – For the gossipy ones that can’t keep a secret for more than 10 seconds (credit for the title creation goes to Tamara Karakashian!)
  • This also spawned Crabby Crabberian – For those who are never happy with anything, and Flabby Flabberian – use at your own risk
  • King Killjoy – For the ones who rain on everyone’s parade
  • Chatty Chairman – For the ones that just won’t let you walk. a. way
  • Riffraff Rider – For the ones who ride the bus and stare down anyone that tries to sit next to them
  • Prince Pinocchio – For the worthless one that lies and lies and lies and lies…


Wise as an old owl. Or sage. It’s one of those things.

Sometimes my friends come to me seeking inspiration, wisdom, and guidance.  It’s a mystery as to why they do.

However, over the years I think I’ve done well, and dispensed some insightful advice.  So I’ve decided to share them with the world.

These are my original quotes, but I’ve cleaned up some of the language.  Ok, more than some, use your imagination:

  • They won’t let you take a bathroom break?!?  Pee in a bottle.  And keep it on your desk. With a label on the bottle. That says PEE
  • If you want to get a job recruiter’s attention, put “xoxo” as your cover letter closing signature.  They will NEVER forget you
  • If people are bothering you, play the crazy card.  Ask them if they’ve seen your cat, and tell them they better give her back because she has rabies. Problem solved. They’ll run.  Scream, “here kitty, kitty, kitty” as they flee. Print off a picture of an ugly cat from the Internet. Keep waving it around
  • Take all the ugly clothes your in-laws have given you, and turn them all into throw pillows for the couch.  Then every time they come over, put out another pillow to see if they notice.
  • 3% chance the deal will fall through?  That’s nothing to think about, there’s probably a 7% chance you’ll fart while signing the contract.  Worry about that.
  • Here’s my advice on turning 40.  Don’t give a damn.  Last year you turned 39, this year you turned 40, next year you turn 41.  It’s just a number.  Instead of thinking, “Crap! 40 years have passed”, tell yourself, “Crap! I’ve had 40 years of awesome, what’s next?” The only time you really need to reflect on your age is when you turn 21.  Cause now you can drink and gamble.  And 100, because then you get to say, “suck it bitches, I’m 100”.
  • You don’t want to go to the event?  So what if you won’t know anyone.  Use a fake accent and walk around and introduce yourself to people you don’t know.  Texan is good.  Say you’re a Futurologist.  Boring event? Problem solved.

Meet the Neighbors

Part of every move to a new location involves meeting the neighbors. In an apartment building, it’s almost unavoidable.  Almost.

Past History

My last apartment was in a pretty quiet building.  I never officially met any of the neighbors.  Except one.  The mystery lady upstairs.

Last Christmas I hosted a dinner party.  The doorbell rang, and I opened the door expecting to find my friends. A noisy group, you really can’t mistake them for anyone else.  But this time in the midst of them was an older woman.  Okaaaaay I thought, somebody brought their grandma who I’ve never met before.

No, no, my friends introduce her as the neighbor upstairs, who they ran into at the building entrance, and inform me that she had no idea I was living in the building.  A fact which she seemed displeased with.

“Where is Mariam”, she queries suspiciously.  (Mariam is the owner of the apartment)
I respond, “She lives in Moscow now”.

She looks me up and down, peers over my shoulder into the apartment, then announces, “No she’s not“; then turns and walks up the stairs.

So, did she think Mariam was hiding from her?  Or that I had killed Mariam?  I never knew what to make of her response and the mystery was never solved.

I vowed to do a better job with neighborly relations in this new apartment.  After I got settled a bit, I would make an effort to meet people.

Moving Day

While I was fairly consumed with the pain of moving, I reminded myself to stay alert for potential neighbor introductions.  Repeatedly tramping up and down 3 flights of stairs makes a lot of noise, so someone was bound to poke their heads out.  A potential of 6 neighbors to meet on my floor and the ones below.

I put the key in the lock on my front door, gave it the normal clunky loud 360 degree turn, and started to open the door.

My neighbor on the right immediately burst out of his door, shook my hand, introduced his family, and welcomed me to the building.  Dad was the head of the house, plus his son, daughter-in-law, and 2 grand kids.   They introduced themselves in 3 seconds.  They talk fast.  All at the same time.  And I forgot their names instantly.  I know them now as older guy, tall guy, wife, kid one, and kid two.  Cute kids.

I was off to a rocky start with the no-name thing, but I had officially met more neighbors in a few seconds than I had in 14 months.  I retreated into my apartment to avoid any more neighbor contact.  5 people was more than enough for the first day.

After the moving men had finished, and I closed and locked the door, and walked into the bathroom to wash my hands.

Squish. Drop, drop, drop.

What the hell?  I looked down to see that the bathroom rug was completely soaked and looked up to see water dripping from the ceiling, through the light fixture.  I quickly realized that this probably wasn’t a good situation for the light, or me.

I shut off the light and stepped back to assess the situation.  Obviously, my neighbor above had sprung a leak.  I marched upstairs to have a chat.

Knock, knock, knock.

I could see that the apartment was under renovation.  By now, I had “phoned a friend”, who was going to translate the situation for whoever opened the door.  But there was no answer.

Knock on another door“, he suggested.

So I tried the door to the right.  The owner opened right away.  “Yes“, the apartment was under remodel, “No” she didn’t know if they were home.  I met her, the son and the husband.  We’ll call them “blond lady family”.  All names again quickly forgotten.  She closed the door.

Knock on another door“, he suggested.

So I tried the door to the left.  The owner opened right away.  “Yes“, the apartment was under remodel, “No” he didn’t know if they were home.  He introduced himself, but was less chatty than blond lady family. We’ll call him “upstairs neighbor on the left”. Name again quickly forgotten, and now I was already out of nicknames.

Great. I was meeting them, but retaining nothing.

Knock on your neighbor’s door, on your floor“, aka older guy, tall guy, etc. “They always know what’s going on in the building.

I walked back downstairs.  Tall guy opened after one knock.  I think he had prepared to see me, considering all the noise I was making.  Translator/phone a friend explained the situation.  We all went back upstairs, (2 of us physically present, 1 on the phone) and tried knocking on the apartment under remodel/source of the leak.

This time the door opened, as the neighbor recognized tall guy.   It was the grandma of the house.

Yes“, they were remodeling,
Yes“, it was the shower,
No“, they didn’t realize it was leaking.

A spate of apologies followed the last line, with the grandma calling me “Balik jan“, every other word.  Loosely translated it means “dear child”.  Everyone should be called balik jan at least once a day, it puts a smile on your face.

Unless you’re called balik jan by some punk-ass 16-year old grocery bag-boy, who further told me the bag of groceries he was refusing to hand me, was too heavy for me to carry.  He chose poorly.  I don’t care if he was taller than me.  I will hunt him down someday….

Grandma explained that her son was in charge of the construction, but currently at work, and she promised to send him down to my apartment as soon as he came home, and further promised to make sure the shower didn’t get turned on.  And apologized some more.

Satisfied that we had the situation somewhat under control, tall guy and I walked back downstairs.  In a span of roughly 15 minutes I had met neighbors in 4 of the 9 other apartments in the building.  All of whose names I had completely forgotten.

I thanked tall guy for his help, and went back into my apartment to process the day.

As I was strategizing on how to forever avoid all the neighbors, who would expect me to know their names, I decided I needed to get some supplies and take a little walk.  Perhaps some fresh air might jog my memory on names, it was a bit chaotic with the knocking on doors and the traipsing up and down the stairwell.

I finished my walk-about, and as I was entering the main door of the building, a young couple was walking out, carrying a baby.

“Hello!” said the Dad, “welcome!”, while Mom struggled to get a hat on the baby.  Everybody smiled at me, even the baby.

Well, they’re pretty friendly, so enthusiastic, I thought. What a nice greeting.  I thanked them and smiled in response.

As we were all smiling and passing by each other he further added, “we missed you!”  To which I responded “hah”, which is my normal stalling response when I need time to translate exactly what they’ve said from Armenian to English .  But by time I put together what he had said, they were out the door.

They missed me?  Had I already met them?  How could they have missed me?  And they didn’t even say their names!  What floor are they on?!?

It quickly dawned on me.  I’m living in my friend’s apartment, who moved to the US a few years ago, and who is also height challenged, and also a Diasporan.  And a fellow Princess.  They thought I was her, and were welcoming me on my return.

Now I tried to decide which was worse.  That my response to “we missed you”, was basically a response of agreement, as in: “yes you did”

OR, that I didn’t correct them and explain that we had never met before, and accepted the well-wishes.

There was no win.  I walked back upstairs, and mentally added them to the list of neighbors I would need to avoid.

Oh how I long for the days when I had only one neighbor to hide from, and only because she thought I was possibly a murderer.

Stuff You Find in Boxes

So, I moved again. 3rd time in three years. If you want someone to divulge all their worldly secrets, forget torture, tell them to talk or they must pack up all their belongings and move. During the winter. While it’s snowing.  In later years, I’ll probably say it was a blizzard.

There were several times during this latest process that I contemplated tossing everything out the window, creating a nice pile in the back yard, and lighting the whole thing on fire. I would have sent out invitations of course, one does not have a moving-related-meltdown bonfire without witnesses.

And I definitely thought about that option one too many times. While smiling. It would have been glorious.  I worry about my future self during the next move….

But I didn’t. No pyromania show. I just kept packing.

The hardest part about the process is never the large items. Or the multiples that fit neatly together. It’s the in-between sized one-item only things that you absolutely can’t throw away, yet have no idea what box to put it in or even how to pack it.

An iron. Kind of heavy for a box, but it’s strange to just place it onto the truck bed. Hangers. Do you hook as many as you can on your fingers and hop into a taxi?

I opted to stuff the hangars into a shopping bag. Which I did with a lot of items in the final stages of packing.  It looked like I had gone on a multi-grocery intercontinental store shopping frenzy; SAS, Yerevan City, Target and Walmart.

Another dilemma I had during this move was my ever-expanding liquor collection. I had started with the basics of a simple bar. But over the years, friends kept bringing bottles. “Hey, this would make a fun drink” or “hey, we must have finished that up last time”.

Hey, that’s why I have 4 ½ bottles of gin.

Add to that, one of our inner-circle friends recently moved back to the US and upon his departure, bequeathed me his collection. Which had also grown out of control with gifts from guests.

Welcome to apartment move 2016, with 60+ bottles of booze. I’m not exaggerating.

A friend who works in the wine industry was good enough to bring me 10 cardboard cases to use for transport, AND she was smart enough to know that I needed an intervention. I was running out of steam, and she stopped by with another friend to help pack up my personal pub.

We loaded the cases in no time at all, and as I stared down at the neatly sealed boxes, I wondered aloud what I should say to the movers. “Don’t worry” they declared, “just tell them it’s fragile and be careful”. It sounded reasonable enough. And then we immediately went out to drink beer to celebrate solving the problem.

Cause I had everything but beer.

Moving day came and I had strategically lined up by size all the items to move. The mover/boss/truck driver had brought two helpers, who seemed most pleased with my obsessive need to make things easier for them. Furniture first, then bulky luggage, then big boxes, then the cases and smaller items.

The room was almost empty when one of the movers turned his attention to the cases. He picked one up, and intending to grab a second one, hoisted the first one up on his shoulder.

Now, half empty bottles, especially liquor bottles, really do have a very distinct sound when their liquid sloshes around. And when it’s 6 of them stuffed into a box, the sound is even louder. And in an empty quite room? Louder still.

He paused…., first he displayed a look of confusion, then curiosity, then realization. He glanced down at the other boxes and did a quick count. A knowing smile of approval crept across his face and the eyebrows went up. I looked away, avoiding eye contact.

The innocent “Oh, they’re fragile, be careful” was not working.

He picked up the second box, which I swear made more noise than the first, and now grinning, walked out the door.

He met the second mover in the hallway, and I heard a quick whisper exchange.

Let me explain a bit here. The average Armenian household has a bottle or two of cognac, vodka in the freezer and a bottle of whiskey. That’s about the extent of it. Anything more than that is found at restaurants and bars. But generally, not in someone’s house.  And not 60 bottles.

Mover #2 came in like a proud papa, and carefully picked up 2 more of the cases. Glug, glug. If he had a free hand, I’m sure he would have given me a “thumbs up”.

The rest of the move was uneventful. I mean, what can top that? I swear I heard giggles in the stairwell as they were taking the cases up to the new apartment, but I thought it again best to avoid eye contact.

When the three of them finished, now practically giddy, they heartily congratulated me on the move. “May you have happy sunshiny days in your new house.” Emphasis on the “sunshiny”.

I could just imagine the stories they were going to tell that night, “You’ll never guess what this woman had in boxes.  և ինչ քան շատ!!!… (And how many)”

Entertainment Karma?

The other day, I remembered my first taxi story. Actually, I have tons of them. I don’t think it’s a sign of bad luck, my taxi karma is just stuck in entertainment mode. It was February 2004 (insert dreamy way-back music here), and I wrote this story about a month afterwards….

One Saturday while in the center of town, I could see that it was getting late, and I wanted to get home and settle in before dark. I decided that the quickest way home was to go by taxi instead of the public vans.

So I found a nice taxi driver by the opera, and asked him to take me the 3 mile drive up to the Komitas district. Taxi drivers in Yerevan are an interesting lot. In addition to providing transportation, they are also the experts on nearly everything, especially weather prediction. In fact, they’re the only ones that will provide you with a five-day forecast. The news stations? They don’t see it as a necessity. “What do you need to know for, the weather is what it is! What difference is it going to make in your life if you know?” Most taxi drivers are very nice and friendly, and this one snapped to attention when I got in the cab. Which marked the end of our speedy service.

I glanced at my watch, and it was around 4:15. Plenty of time to get myself home and do a little shopping in the neighborhood. At first, the car wouldn’t start. Another nearby taxi driver, who I thought was his friend, jumped up and helped. They both popped open the hood. I was a little concerned, but decided that if there really was a problem, he would say so and I would get in another cab. After all, these were the experts. They tinkered around with the engine for a few minutes, and got it to start. The driver jumped in and started to pull away. We traveled about 10 feet and the car died again. In the middle of the street. Near the busiest intersection in town. I looked around; he looked around, and then started to wave cars past him as he tried to restart the car. We sat through several light rotations while he continued to apologize for the inconvenience. At this point, I decided that he must really need the fare, and I felt guilty for thinking about getting out. His friend finally sprinted over again, popped the hood, poured gas somewhere, and the car finally started. By their conversation, I figured out that the “friend” as just another taxi driver hanging around.

This is where it turned into a really interesting ride. We made it up to the traffic light and sat with the engine in neutral, while the driver raced the engine like crazy. Knowing the reliability of Russian cars, I fully expected us to go sailing through the intersection at any moment. The light turned green, and thankfully, when he threw it into drive, we started going. But veeeeeery sloooooooowly. It was now 4:30 and we had only made it through the first light.

After leaving the opera, it’s a steady climb up to Komitas. And by now, I was thinking that there was no way this car was going to make the climb. We went slower, and slower and slower until we finally stopped just past the old US Embassy. Again, the driver attempted to restart the engine, over and over and over again. Well, now I was too far into the trip to bail out, but it was 4:45! He got out, poured more gasoline over the engine (how this helps I have no idea, I was just thankful there wasn’t a cigarette dangling from his mouth), and he somehow managed to get the engine started again.

At the second light, he again put it into neutral and revved the engine. This trick seemed to work as we made it through the second green light. We crawled our way up, past the Parliament Building, then the President’s Office, then the University, almost up to Orbeli Street. I could have walked faster that we were traveling. But our progress halted and we died again, right in front of a little grocery store.

This time, he stopped next to another taxi driver (I figure they’re all brothers in some secret union), who got out to help. This time, they opened all the doors. Trunk, hood, front door, back door, they were pulling out all the stops. They used all the conventional car repair tools. Plastic coke bottle filled with water, plastic orange soda bottle filled with oil, a hammer, a rag, etc. Now it was 5:00 and getting dark. But I figured I couldn’t quit now, I was in a bad spot to find another cab, and he was putting so much effort into getting me to my destination. So, as they talked and circled the car, hammered, poked, prodded and talked some more, I sat in the car thinking about what I was working on the next week. I pulled out my day calendar to at least have something to read.

It must have been a few minutes that passed when I suddenly noticed that it had gotten very quiet. They weren’t talking anymore. And, actually, I no longer heard any noise at all. I looked around and discovered that I was sitting there in the car by myself! My driver had left, and the other taxi driver and his car had disappeared. Our car hadn’t originally been pulled over to the curb, and with the departure of the other taxi, there were now no other cars around me.  The car was just sitting there out in the open, blocking the lane. I looked up front at the driver’s seat and saw that he had left the keys in the ignition.

Now, the first thought that went through my head wasn’t panic, wasn’t fear, wasn’t even anger. It was horror at the thought that I was probably now on TV! Armenia has its own local version of Candid Camera, and this wouldn’t be out of the range of their stunts. Actually, now I was in a state of anxiety, trying to figure out what to do that would make me look the least ridiculous. How long could I sit there exactly without looking like the rude American OR looking like a clueless fool. I searched for some magic number that would deliver me from this situation with some amount of my dignity still attached.

I had resigned myself to the fact that a TV stunt was the only plausible explanation. It was out of the question that as a part of his customer service plan, the driver had; abandoned the car, with the keys in the ignition, without saying one word! 5 minutes passed, then 10. It was too late. I was now the biggest idiot in Armenia, and they might as well capture it on TV. So I tried to act casual, as if getting stranded in a taxi in the middle of the road was an everyday occurrence.  I pondered alternative solutions, maybe I should at least try pushing the car over to the curb? Get out and go into the grocery store for a coke? What would my local friends do in this situation? In a bizarre twist of guilt, I decided that I couldn’t leave the car, the driver had entrusted it to me.

Suddenly out of nowhere, the driver reappeared. He had a plastic coke bottle filled with something that wasn’t soda. He walked around to the side of the car and promptly starting filling the gas tank. Apparently, we had run out of gas. And he had walked to who-knows-where to get more. After emptying the contents of the bottle, amazingly, the car started right up and ran fine after receiving this miraculous liquid. Imagine my surprise that the car was now able to accelerate and travel at normal speeds. The man was a genius.

He continued to apologize during the rest of our journey home. It was now almost 5:30 and had already gotten dark. But still not fully convinced that I wasn’t going to appear on TV, I smiled and kept telling him it was no problem and not to worry. In the end, I felt sorry for him, since he had tried so hard to finish the job of delivering me safely to my home. In a burst of insanity (or possibly just overcome by car fumes) I gave him double the asking fare, and sprinted out of the car when he tried to object. Luckily, my ride never appeared on a TV show.  I think.

Taxi Taxi

Living in Fresno didn’t afford me the opportunity to take taxis very often. In fact, I wouldn’t even know how to find one. And even though Yerevan is a walking friendly city, I do take them on the occasion if it’s bad weather, late at night, or I’m hauling something.

When I first moved to Yerevan, the “taking of taxis” just added to the adventure-ness of living here.  Taxis were unregulated, unlicensed, un-everything.  Just sit by the side of the road in a car, and POOF you were a taxi.  It was like the wild west, the driving was crazy, prices were crazy, drivers were crazy.  Fast forward to today, and taxis are company owned for the most part, somewhat regulated, most have meters, and they’re all terrified of the traffic cameras.  Hence some semblance of obeying traffic laws.

One thing that hasn’t changed though is that most drivers are chatty.  “Where are you from, do you like Yerevan, why are you here, what is your village (Western Armenia reference, Kharpert by the way) “,  they quizzed me about everything.  Want to take a taxi in Yerevan?  Have your CV handy.  My first time in Brussels I took a cab to a shopping mall.  Halfway there I realized the driver was silent.  He spoke English, we established that when I got in the cab.  But this silence?  What the hell was that all about?!  Jerk.  Then it dawned on me, THIS is how the rest of the world experienced taxi rides.

But back to Yerevan.  The other night I was transporting a cake to share with friends at dinner.  Since I wasn’t going far, I grabbed a cab off the street instead of calling for one.  Red, clean, lots of stickers and phone numbers on the side.  This tells you it’s a “real” cab.  I hopped in, said the name of the restaurant, and since there are two in town, told him it’s the one near the opera.

Aaaand we started.  For edification, the driver was late late late 60’s.  Ish.  And this was all in Armenian.

Driver:  Are you from Syria?
Me:  No, the US
Driver:  Visiting or you live here?
Me:  I live here and work here.  14 years.
Driver: 14 YEARS?!  Why is your Armenian so bad?
Me:  (Insert spate of cursing that was going on in my head) I don’t study and Armenian is difficult.
Driver:  Do your parents speak at home.
Me:  No.  My Mom doesn’t speak Armenian
Driver:  Is she Armenian?
Me:  Yes. She’s Armenian.  But her Mother was born in the US, and the family wanted to learn English.
Driver:  Ah, ok, I understand.  But your Dad speaks Armenian?  Why didn’t he teach you?
Me:  Yes, my Dad speaks Armenian, I don’t know why he didn’t teach me.

Now at this point, I notice he’s not in the lane to turn to the restaurant.

Me:  Excuse me, where are you going?
Driver:  You said Artashi Mod
Me:  Yes, but the one by Opera
Driver:  Ay kezi ban (sorry, this doesn’t really translate well, basically he said Oh my)
Me:  That’s ok, go up to the next street and make a u-turn
Driver:  How many Artashi Mod’s are there?  (trying to make a joke) You didn’t say by the Opera
Me:  Yes, I said, and they have 2

Back to the inquisition

Driver:  Are you married?
Me:  Divorced
Driver:  You should be married
Me:  I don’t want to
Driver:  What?! Why not?!?!
Me:  All men are difficult and idiots
Driver:  (extra insulted) All men are not difficult and idiots.  You’re young, you should be married, why don’t you want to get married, who do you cook and clean for?
Me:  (After taking a brief pause to consider the cook and clean comment) Yes they are, no I’m not, and I cook and clean for myself!
Driver:  You’re not young?
Me: No
Driver: (I could actually see the light bulb go off) I’m not married, I’m divorced, marry me!
Me:  Hahahahahahahaha
Driver:  I’m single, you’re single, why are you laughing?  It’s a good idea!
Me:  Hahahahahahahaha
Driver:  I don’t understand, why don’t you want to get married?  You work, you won’t have to work.

I should explain, when he asked me to marry him, he turned around and smiled.  And there it was, right there to see.  A shiny gold front tooth.  Now, lots of people have gold teeth.  And I’ve never really paid much attention to them.  Except last December, two of my friends came up with a plan to see what would happen if they took a gold tooth to the gold market, and tried to sell it.  Just to see the reactions of the gold sellers, who generally aren’t a jovial bunch.  Also, it belonged to one of them, it came out of her own head, I don’t want anyone thinking I have friends running around picking up stray teeth to sell.  So when he flashed the big one at me, all I could think about was selling it at the market.

Me:  I don’t want to get married.  But thank you for asking. Finally.

Further explanation.  I have other friends who have had marriage proposals from taxi drivers.  And in 14 years, I have had all kinds of things offered by taxi drivers: a coffee date, Armenian language lessons, cognac (yes, the bottle was right there in the car), BBQ service for me and my friends, and fresh-cut fruit at the end of a knife by a driver who was clearly quite high.  I’ve been sung to, yelled at, had poetry recited, lectured, and one wanted to take me and my friend to his Mother’s house so we could continue celebrating a futbol win. We declined.  But never a marriage proposal.  I was kind of insulted, it was about time.

Driver:  But you’re single, I’m single, why not?
Me:  Because I don’t want to
Driver: Ay kezi ban

Luckily, we had arrived at the restaurant.  I reached my hand over the front seat to hand him the money, and he grabbed it, took the cash and put it back in my hand.

Driver:  But no, I can’t take your money, we’re going to get married (showing the gold tooth again)
Me:  (Throwing money into the front seat)  No, we’re not, hahahahahaha

Obviously I wasn’t going to wait for change and ran into the restaurant, still laughing.  As I approach my 15 year anniversary of being in Armenia, I thought that was a fitting start to the celebrations.  My first gold toothed marriage proposal.  Taxi driver or not.

Beam Me Up?

Unless you’re been living under a rock, you’ve already heard the news. Bank of America announced that we’re all living in the Matrix.

Ok, that might not be exactly what they said, but it’s close enough.

How many times have I been in a car, convinced that we’re about to crash, only to blink and see that we’ve passed the danger. Coincidence?!?! I think not. Concrete proof.  And I always assumed it was just one of my multiple personalities taking over and in what I thought was a blink, I had actually already been in and out of the hospital and recovered from my injuries.  See?  Total score!  There’s only one me!  It’s the Matrix!

Their (BofA) theory is that future generations have for some reason decided to run this virtual simulation of their ancestors. Since I don’t have children, this means the descendants of my nephews are in control.  Three boys.  Three sons of my already proven to be bratty brothers.  But thanks for choosing me!

So here’s just one of the many problems.  First, who takes responsibility for the bad stuff; second, can I change my future destiny by upping the Christmas present levels to the nephews; third, if they can hear and see us, are they happy?  Do I care?

And now, so many more questions!  Is Elvis alive in the future?  Do they not have peanut butter, which explains my obsession?  Shoes!!  What’s the deal with shoes?!  I’m guessing they just all float around and their feet have evolved into puffy landing pillows, hence the little whispering I hear in my ear every time I see a cute pair.  “buuuuuuy theeeeeeem”  Jerks.  You have no shoes.  That’s your punishment for not giving me awesome virtual eyelashes.  OMG, Mickey!  Forget Elvis, is Walt there?  Is this why I love Mickey so much?  You gave me Minnie Mouse eyelashes?  Tell him I say hi, and that he needs to shut it down about the Star Wars direction at the theme park.

Ooooooo, Star Wars.  Now I get it.

But if BofA is the one who has “discovered” this.  How do we know the future BofA didn’t send the info to the present BofA so we all start thinking we should bank there?  And why would it be a bank who put this all together?  That seems suspicious.  What about the scientists, the great thinkers of the world, Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, hellooooo, the people on Big Bang Theory.

I’ll leave with one last thought.  Dogs.  They definitely know more than they’re letting on.

BANK OF AMERICA: There’s a 20%-50% chance we’re inside the matrix and reality is just a simulation

Nothing BUT possibilities

Today I saw a brilliant t-shirt. Stark white with one work in black, bold letters – BUT

And I spotted it on a guy with a giant belly attached to his skinny Armenian married man body, rocking a lit cigarette perfectly balanced on his lower lip.  If he was in the third world squat position sipping an Armenian coffee, I would have passed out.  These are the moments when I curse myself for not having a camera ready at all times.

However, the t-shirt is the real focus here


I’ve grabbed the pearls, seen the light bulb, heard all the words, climbed the mountain.  It’s the wisdom of a thousand smelly hermits perched atop a mountain peak.  Add, who, what, when, where, why, or any variety of profanity, and it all works.  The profanity being the best of course. This one t-shirt as a metaphor for all life from now until eternity.  Thank you belly guy, thank you.