Little Armenia, Big Armenia

Lunch break for the duduk makers

Lunch break for the duduk makers

When I’m in LA, it’ll be Thai Town, sometimes called the 77th province of Thailand, enough Thai restaurants to satiate even the most famished of Thai affections, and a few grocery stores, gift shops and massage parlors to boot.

It’s also Little Armenia, which overlaps the Thai part of town, and is the larger of the two, though you might mistake the Armenians for Russians, since most speak Russian also, unless they came here 100 years ago during the final days of the Ottoman Empire and that celebrated genocide of resident Armenians, who were there first by millennia, at least in the eastern half of the country that is now Turkey, that now turns its ‘zero-tolerance’ racial policy mostly toward Kurds, Armenians long subdued, either by change of name and language or actual geography just to the east which at the time was also in process of becoming part of the USSR, and probably saved its life.

The Armenians in LA are a fairly surly lot, to be honest, not too surprising since they’re subject by affiliation to all the customary predations of resident Russians, including Mafiosos and the like. They’re known by their groceries and baked goods and auto work, by trade, and their flaunting of various laws, including but not limited, to taking over sidewalks for impromptu flea markets, causing much aggravation to myself and no few other pedestrians, but much comfort to babushkas without automobiles dependent on curb service.

It’s not like that in Armenia itself, independent and free now for only the last twenty of the past many hundreds of years, they with one of the oldest cities in the world—Yerevan, and their own quarter in old Jerusalem, they with one of the preeminent nation-states of the Biblical world now reduced to a thumbnail of a sliver of a rump of a state, they original Christians with an Indo-European language related to no other, they separated from their mother mountain Ararat to the hated Turk-monsters, sharing the Caucasus with equally renegade Muslim Azeris and Georgians without tears.

It’s springtime in Armenia, with sofas in the park and picnics on a lark, liquor flowing people coming and going, no matter the problems with neighbors Turkey and Iran, take it out on Azerbaijan. Georgia is a little bro and Russia is a big one, united by alcohol and fuzzy memories, alcohol and faded glory, alcohol and up-beat tempos, alcohol and textbook stories. Make plans to visit soon; just catch the bus labeled ‘Nowhereistan’. I’ll always have fond memories of my day-trip to the duduk master makers, the older gent no doubt long ago got up and went, he of the cloudy eyes and happier times, rest in peace and pray for forgiveness. I shall return one day.

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