Friday, April 18, 2014

Practicing your Easter greetings?

Earlier this week, visiting an old friend who was now with caregivers, (the caregivers having recently arrived from Armenia,) Marash Girl was greeted by the caregivers with the words, 

Քրիստոս ծնաւ եւ յայտնեցաւ . . . Օրհնեալ է յայտնութիւնը Քրիստոսի:

(which transliterates, "Krisdos dznav yev haydnetsav . . . Orhnyal eh haydnoutioun Krisdosi" and translates  Christ is born and is revealed to us  . . . blessed is the revelation of Christ).  Marash Girl could barely restrain a smile as she recalled her childhood . . . 

Marash Girl had been greeted with the greeting that Armenians use at Christmas on January 6, rather than the greeting reserved for Easter which Marash Girl used when she "returned" the blessing as follows:  

The Greeting:

Քրիստոս հարեաւ ի  մեռելոց:           
Krisdos haryav ee merelotz!   
(Christ has risen and conquered death.)

The Response:

Օրհնեալ է  Հարություն Քրիստոսի:
Orhnyal e haroutioun Krisdosi!   
(Blessed is the resurrection of Christ!)

So now you know and won't make that error yourselves, right?  Better practice before Easter arrives!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Heading for New York City on the Bolt Bus

Having stopped the bus for a "coffee and whatever" break halfway between Boston and New York City, the bus driver had his coffee, reboarded the bus, and, before taking off, announced with a grin, "If you're missing, raise your hand!"

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yesterday's Tribute to the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings

The above sign reads, "If you're gonna use a boat to escape, make sure it's in WATER, not in WATERTOWN!  
Photo by Marash Girl
Lightening the mood of yesterday's tribute to the victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, the above sign is still affixed to the Watertown, Massachusetts, Post Office wall, less than a mile away from where the perpetrator of the marathon bombing was apprehended as he hid in a boat in the back yard of a house on Franklin Street, less than a half mile from the Charles River; the sign has been on the wall of the post office since  April of 2013.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wild Turkeys At Home - Newtonville Avenue, Newton, Massachusetts

The wild turkeys and the tamed residents of Newtonville Avenue have learned to share their turf.  The  fellow backing out of his driveway paid no attention whatsoever to the wild turkey surveying the woods to the north of his home.  "Oh, we've learned to live with them in peace," he said when Marash Girl asked him if he had noticed that he had a visitor.  And the wild turkey, for that matter, paid no heed to Marash Girl as she approached to take his (her?) photograph!                   Photo by Marash Girl

Monday, April 14, 2014


While throughout the front yards of Newton Corner, the snowdrops and crocus proclaim that Spring has indeed sprung, Marash Boy called to Marash Girl to witness the blooming blue that had burst forth,  covering the back yard of their Newton Corner home.

 Glory-of-the-Snow (Chionodoxa luciliae)  has conquered its blanket of brown announcing,  
                                                                 "Spring is here!  Rejoice!"             Photo by Marash Girl                                                                                    

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday, 2014

Photo by Marash Girl
The heavy rains kept the congregation of Grace Episcopal Church from their yearly  procession through Farlow Park on Palm Sunday; instead, waving their palms in celebration of this day, the worshippers followed the choir out through the church doors, and back into the church and the sanctuary, singing God's praises.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

An Attractive Nuisance in Newton Corner

Taking a walk on a beautiful spring day, Marash Girl walked through her neighborhood,  and along the street that runs between the local elementary school and its playground --- a beautiful day with all the kids playing at recess . . .

Just past the school, to the right of the playground, was a long wire noose hanging from the poles supporting electricity and telephone wires.  Taken aback that such an attractive nuisance would be allowed to hang loose, much less hang loose between a playground and an elementary school, Marash Girl approached a man who was standing guard over 2nd or 3rd grade children, the children playing on the cement  apron outside of the school.  Do you know about the wire? she asked him. Yes.  It's been there for a while.  Has anyone reported it? she asked.  Don't know.  She continued.  . . Where is the school office . . . I'll report it.  Over there but the doors are locked. You can't get in.  You can call them.  She continued by asking, What is the phone #?  I don't know. Do you work here? Yes. Are you a teacher?  Silence. What is your name? Silence. Could you call about this? Silence.  Marash Girl could not find the phone # on her cell phone, so Marash Girl followed another teacher with two young children into the school . . . one of the children directed her to the office.

At the office: Oh.  We already called the police about that.  When?  Weeks ago.  But the loose wire noose is still hanging.  You can call if you want.  From here?  Well . . . I'll call from here.

Marash Girl received no thank you. No greeting.  Cold. Unwelcoming.  She shivered.

Police called, item reported; police sent a detail immediately and corrected the problem.  No more hanging wire noose, thanks to the speedy response of the Newton Police Department.  At least they cared!

Of concern, however, is that Marash Girl had been treated as an intruder in her own neighborhood. The silent male teacher had called the school office reporting that she had entered the school, but not reporting concern about the hanging wire noose. 

Marash Girl left the school shaking . . . shaking for the lack of concern, shaking for the lack of respect, shaking for being made to feel an intruder (though her children had attended that very school . . . though she's been an active member of that community for years  --  perhaps there lies the rub), and shaking most of all for the lack of caring about the disaster that the hanging wire "noose" could have caused.

If we don't care about our own neighborhoods, who will care?

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Honey Bee Is Back in Newton Corner, Massachusetts!

The First Honey Bee of the Season!                              Photo by Marash Girl

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Touch Your Plants!

As spring approaches in New England (no, March 21st is definitely NOT the first day of spring around here, ground covered with snow in March), tiny green shoots dare to make their presence known above the nearly frozen earth, through their blanket of mulch (be it leaves or coffee grounds or the dried plant leavings from the year before), and all who have indoor plants wait with longing to be able to expose them to the open air, the direct warmth of the sun,  the rustling of their leaves as the wind makes its way across, the gentleness or not so gentleness of raindrops . . .  What all of this brings to mind is the need to touch your indoor plants while they are indoors . . . touch that they would naturally feel out of doors -- from the rain, from the wind, from the movement of other plants, from insects, bees, butterflies, from animals wandering by (be they wild coyotes or household cats) . . . And so Marash Girl begs you to consider to touch your plants, ruffle their leaves . . . . plants need to be touched as do we all.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

We mourn the passing of Father Raphael Andonian, Holy Cross Armenian Catholic Church, Belmont, Mass.

Photo by Marash Girl

Father Raphael Andonian, Pastor Priest of Holy Cross Armenian Catholic Church (center) enjoying his daily visit to the Armenian Starbucks in Watertown, Massachusetts, with  Charles Mosesian (right) and other members of the Watertown Armenian community.   This photo was taken on March 26, 2007; Father Raphael passed away on Sunday, April 6, 2014. We mourn his passing.         

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Fear not!

One of Marash Girl's favorite Bible quotations of Jesus:  "Fear not for I am with thee!"

Nonetheless, there are those around us who fear . . .

During a Sunday morning walk with Marash Boy around Bullough's Pond, Marash Girl, commenting on such folks, quoted Karoun (of Karoun Yoga fame): "You attract what you fear!"

Marash Boy, without pause, quipped, "I thought that applied only to cats!"  (See

Monday, April 7, 2014

Getting over it!

Conversation overheard at Trader Joe's

Armenian-American Woman:  I attended a concert of early Turkish music this week!

Irish-American Woman:  And I've begun using my English bone china for the first time!

Armenian-American:  I hope the china doesn't have any lead in it!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Love salt? Love sugar? Doctor says, "No, no"?

Want to lower your salt intake, but still love salt?  Want to lower your sugar intake but still love sugar?

Because the cooking process causes the sweet or salty tastes to fade, put less salt/sugar (or none) before and during the cooking process and add salt/sugar -- (the less refined the salt or sugar, the less you'll need to use) at end.

1/4 cup of coarse baker's sugar on top of a cake will add far more sweet pleasure to the palate than a cup of sugar in the batter!  As for salt . . . just think about that coarse salt on the surface of a pretzel!

Experiment and see what works for you!  But do experiment.  You'll be surprised at the results.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


On Friday afternoon, April 4, 2014, while the Red Sox played their opening game a few blocks away at Fenway Park, over 100 folks from the Armenian National Committee of Eastern Massachusetts and the Armenian Youth Federation--Greater Boston and Providence Chapters-- demonstrated in front of the Federal Building in Boston, Massachusetts,  insisting that  the United States State Department end its "hypocrisy which fails to condemn the Al-Qaeda attack on the Armenian city of Kessab, Syria, and covers up Turkey's complicity in the invasion and occupation."  Although they smiled for the camera, they were distraught!  The message was loud and clear:  SAVE KESSAB!

While chanting slogans calling for the United States government to step in and help the now homeless Kessabtsis, the demonstrators handed out flyers which stated the following:

"We demand that the U.S. Government speak
clearly and unambiguously in calling on Turkey
to cease its support for this invasion and pressure
foreign extremists to end their occupation of

"We call on the Senate and House Intelligence
committees to launch an investigation into
Turkey's role in the attacks.

"We demand international pressure on Turkey
and the extremist rebel groups to withdraw from
Kessab, Syria, so that Armenian civilians can return home."

Photos by Marash Girl 
For more on Kessab, see

Friday, April 4, 2014

Grandma Jennie, Marash Boy and Hot Dogs!

One day, many years before Marash Boy and Marash Girl were an item, Marash Boy arrived unannounced at Marash Girl's family home in Newtonville, Massachusetts.  Marash Girl's mom, Jennie, who had an Armenian meal (Aintab style) ready to put on the table at any time of any day or night, on that particular day, announced that all she had was hot dogs!  As it turned out, because Marash Boy's mom always prepared wonderful Armenian meals (Marash style) . . . never hot dogs . . . Marash Boy's favorite food was. . . you guessed it. . . hot dogs!  And, as they say, the rest is history!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Be careful when you open your trash barrels

There may be nesting pregnant raccoons lurking inside!

Even the gates of gated communities can't keep the critters out!

How to prevent such a disaster? Pouring a bit of ammonia into the bottom of your barrel will keep the animals away!  Moth balls will work too, but unfortunately, they'll get thrown out with the trash.

Marash Girl thanks Irish Monkey for the tip!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Too much of a good thing

Too much of a good thing goes for cooking as well as for anything else.  Recently Niña reported spoiling her 3 hour long effort preparing Cajun Shrimp by over spicing it!  And Marash Girl spoiled her chicken soup by over lemoning it .(The lemons were shriveled and thus more acidic, more concentrated.)  A little goes a long way with spices, sweeteners, and sourers (is there such a word?)!  As with cooking, so with life.  Taste test as you go!  It's fun, and it works!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dün gece esyrim içinde . . . Last Night I dreamt of . . . Turkish Songs of Protest

"Last night I dreamt . . ." said Marash Girl the next morning . . .  the morning after the concert of "Turkish Protest Songs" presented in Gasson Hall at Boston College  . . . "Or I thought I was dreaming . . . I understood the accent, the pronunciation, most of the words . . . It was like going back in time, to when my grandmothers would be talking to me . . . my Armenian grandmothers -- Yepros from Marash, Yester from Aintab."

From the back of the room came a haunting chant, an ancient melody - -  a beautiful young woman walking down the center aisle, singing a devotional song of the Bektaşi dervishes.

The Dunya Ensemble sings of a deceitful world (Yalan Dunya) --  authority and myth -- sex, religion and tradition --  wine and music.

Here are the lyrics to a particularly amusing piece -- Bektaşi Fıkrası. [A fıkra is a story with a moral, often comic.  It offers the opportunity for satire and is a favorite Bektaşi form]

"Dostlarının baskılaruna dayanamayan Baba Erenler, camiye gitmiş, hocanın vaazıni dinliyordu.  Hoca, içkinin kötülüğünü anlaimak için aklına ne geliyorsa söyüyordu.  Bir ara şöyle dedi:  "Bir eşeğin önüne, bir kova su ile bir kova şarap koysanız, hangisin içer?  Elbette ki su içer.  Peki eşek niçin şarabı içmez?"  Bektaşi dayanamayiıp seslendi:  "Neden olacak . . . eşekliğinden . . . "

"Pressured by his friends, a Bektaşi Master had reluctantly gone to a mosque and was listening to the sermon.  The imam was going on and on about how bad it was to consume alcohol.  At one point he said, "If you put a bucket of water and a bucket of wine in front of a donkey, which one will it drink? Of course, the water.  Well, why won't the donkey drink the wine?"  The Bektaşi couldn't resist any longer and said:  "Why, because he is an eshek . . .  էշ… in plain English, a jackass!"

The Dünya Ensemble -- Beth Bahia Cohen (Yayli bowed tanbur /violin), Borcu Güleç (voice), Robert Labaree (çeng), George Lernis (percussion), Mehmet Ali Sanhkol (voice, oud, neg, saz) -- carried the audience back in time and space -- a journey never to be forgotten.

Monday, March 31, 2014

You must really like coffee!

As spring approaches (Marash Girl does not believe that it has, in fact, arrived yet), Marash Girl's thoughts turn to . . . coffee . . . or rather, coffee grounds . . . and what, exactly do coffee grounds have to do with spring?  Glad that you asked.

Once Marash Girl began gardening (she has turned her small grassy(?) plot in front of the house into what will one day, she hopes, become a perennial flower garden), she began her search for compost, and the easiest compost to acquire? . . . coffee grounds . . . and the closest storehouse of coffee grounds? . . . . Starbucks!  Starbucks will save up their coffee grounds for you providing you provide them early in the day with a five gallon bucket in which to store their used coffee grounds, AND providing you pick up that bucket full of coffee grounds at the end of the day.

Thus Marash Girl arrived at the Starbucks on Galen Street in Newton Corner early one morning last spring carrying a large orange bucket.

Eyeing the big orange bucket, the fellow standing in line behind Marash Girl, waiting to order his favorite brew commented, "You must really like coffee!"

While it is widely thought that coffee grounds are acidic, it has been shown that most of this acidity is removed in the brewing process. Used grounds are essentialy neutral and composting them with other materials will buffer any minor residual acidity.  

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Armenians in Watertown: The Artwork of Philip Hagopian

Randomly, Marash Girl left Joe’s and wandered into the newly-named Armenian Museum of America — and there was Gary Lind-Sinanian at the front desk, encouraging Marash Girl to head upstairs to the third floor gallery.  “The artist is up there now hanging paintings for his exhibit . . . you may like the paintings!”  And sure enough, Philip Hagopian was there mounting his often multi-dimensional (especially the ones inspired by his stay in Hayasdan) and neo-impressionistic (especially the paintings of Vermont) paintings.  Busy about his work, Marash Girl did not want to interrupt, but felt honored to be able to see the canvases before the crowds arrived on opening day (the very next day).  Heading back to the restaurant where she was to meet Marash Boy, she carried the image of one of those paintings with her and there, sitting at a table in Watertown Square's Not Your Average Joe’s, was the female subject painted in the Hagopian paintings Marash Girl had just viewed in AMA's third floor gallery.  Marash Girl approached her:  "Didn’t I just see you in the paintings hung on the museum walls upstairs?”

Philip Hagopian introduces his multi-dimensional paintings at the Armenian Museum of America.

Naira Hagopian photographs the audience, as they listen intently to her husband,
Philip Hagopian, talking about his paintings.

Old friends from Springfield, Massachusetts meet, and new friends greet. . .

"Our home in Vermont."

Naira Hagopian, modeling beneath the painting for which she was the model.

"You're so lucky to be living surrounded by Armenians.  We live in Vermont surrounded by mountains.  Not only are there no Armenians in Morrisville, Vermont, but when folks ask me where I'm from and I tell them Armenia, they answer, "Oh, yes, I know.  My grandfather was from Romania, too!"  (Marash Girl replied, "Better than saying, 'Oh, yes, I know; Turkish, right?'")

N.B.  Philip Hagopian was born in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts; his wife, Naira, was born in Armenia.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Coffee, anyone?

Standing in line at McDonald's waiting patiently to order a cup of coffee, a burly young fellow was sipping from a cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee.  When Marash Girl looked questioningly at him, he commented, "Well, you never know how long the line's gonna be here . . . "

Friday, March 28, 2014

You can't win for winning!

Recently, following a showing of  THE LOVINGS, a made for TV film on the Supreme Court decision against states' laws prohibiting inter-racial marriage, a group of viewers engaged in a discussion on prejudice, racism, etc. (Obviously.  What else would you discuss after the showing of such a film?) The viewers were commenting on how racism was alive and well in Newton in the 1960's.

Marash Girl mentioned that at Day Jr. High School, the most popular boy in the school was a fellow who happened to be black.

"Oh, that's just reverse discrimination," retorted a City of Newton official (who happens to be white), discounting Marash Girl's point. 

Marash Girl wonders whether the official feels the same way about the election (to a second term) of Newton's Mayor Setti Warren, Massachusetts' Governor Duval Patrick,  United States President Barack Obama . . .

It seems that you can't win for winning!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Protest to Stop Turkey's Role in Attacking Kessab, Syria

Shocking as it may seem, the report of this attack did not appear in the New York Times nor did it appear in the Wall Street Journal!

"Protest to Stop Turkey's Role in Attacking Kessab
Friday, March 28, 2014 2-4PM

The AYF, along with various religious and political groups, has organized a protest in front of the Turkish Consulate in order to put a stop to Turkey's role in the attacks against Armenian civilians. Buses will be provided from St. Mary's Church in Glendale (500 S. Central Ave.) promptly at 1pm. For more details and questions, please call (818) 507-1933.

The last few days have been a tumultuous, heavy burden for the Armenian Community due to the atrocities that have occurred in Kessab, Syria. The armed incursion in Kessab began on Friday, March 21, with rebels associated with Al-Qaeda's al-Nusra Front, Sham al-Islam and Ansar al-Sham crossing the Turkish border and attacking the Armenian civilian population of Kessab.

For more information on the attacks, click here:

- See more at:"

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mindehrs in the New World

What is a mindehr?   (mind rhymes with wind; ehr rhymes with air as in wind!) Have you heard of the kitchen couch?  The kitchen couch was a major piece of "furniture" in many homes in the United States in the first half of the 20th century . . . (Was it only in Armenian homes?)  The kitchen couch was typically a roughly put together bench along the outside wall of the kitchen where family members would gather to keep company with the cook (usually the dandigin) who was preparing the meal, (undoubtedly the warmest place in the house, both in winter and summer).  The kitchen couch that Marash Girl remembers was made up of wooden orange crates positioned end to end, with the bottoms of the crates -- the unopened side -- at the top; covered with a pretty piece of cloth (or, more likely in Armenian homes, an old oriental carpet), families would place a mindehr across the length of the bench over the carpet covering (and pillows across the back against the wall).  The mindehr was usually a long narrow cushion made from lamb's wool in a fashion similar to the way angoghins (yorghans, quilts) were made by the old Armenian ladies.  [See] The mindehr (perhaps made from a worn out yorgan or quilt) was placed across the top of the crates  in the kitchen for kids and adults to sit comfortably, keep warm, and socialize with each other. Marash Girl still remembers sitting on the mindehr in her Grandmother Yester Bosnian Vartanian's kitchen on the third floor of the three floor walk-up apartment at 47 Vassal Lane in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Do any readers of this post have such memories?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Worshiping in Rumney, New Hampshire

Summers during the 1940's, members of the United Armenian Brethren Church of Watertown, Massachusetts, would often head up to Rumney, New Hampshire, to gather with folks from area evangelical churches for a week in the country around a lake (similar to the camp meetings in Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard), a week of attending religious services every morning, every afternoon, and every evening.

One evening, while the Rumney, N.H., evangelist was preaching on Satan, sitting in the congregation was Rev. Vartan Bilezikian, well known pastor of the United Armenian Brethren Church of Watertown, Massachusetts,  reverently listening to the sermon.  8 year old cousin David, Rev. Vartan's great nephew, was also in attendance. 

As David tells it, one afternoon during a particularly energetic church service, the folks in the congregation were distracted from what the (very forceful) evangelist was preaching; rather, they started turning their backs on the preacher, looking around and staring at the antics of a black cat that had walked into the house of worship and was strutting down the center aisle . . . right towards Uncle Vartan.  The preacher started railing:  "The devil has sent that black cat to distract you, my congregation of believers, to prevent you from hearing the Word of God."  The little black cat, lonely for Uncle Vartan's attention, sidled up to him and started rubbing against Uncle Vartan's ankles; the very same Uncle Vartan, owner of the cat,  tried to shoo it away without other folks in the congregation noticing. . . as the evangelist continued on the new topic of the day:  The devil has sent that black cat to prevent you from hearing the Word of God!  Get thee behind us, Satan! the evangelist preached quoting Jesus, as Uncle Vartan vainly attempted, with as much subtlety as he could muster, to shoo his cat away. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

The quickest way . . .

Marash Girl's cousin, David S., (also half Marashtsi and half Aintepsi) was quick with the quips.  On the sidewalk after church one Sunday,  David S. gathered his cousins around him and told them,

"The other day a man pulled up in a car and asked me the quickest way to the hospital.
'See that telephone pole over there?' I asked him.  'Just crash right into it!'"

Sunday, March 23, 2014

"Go and Do Thou Likewise . . ."

Years ago, an evangelist visiting the Armenian Bretheren Evangelical Church in Watertown, Massachusetts, gave a sermon that Marash Girl will never forget.  For Evangelical Christians, the big push, after accepting Christ as your Personal Savior, is to read the Bible and live your life accordingly.  The evangelist emphasized the importance of reading the Bible and understanding it as a whole rather than in bits and pieces.  

To illustrate his point, he told the story of a newly Born-Again Christian who, enthusiastic in his new found faith, had promised to live his life according to the Bible.  That very evening, the newly Born Again Christian sat in the corner of his room holding his  Bible, and with his eyes closed, he opened his Bible, and pointed to a verse.  Opening his eyes, he read aloud the verse he had pointed to:  "And Judas went and hanged himself." (Matthew 27:5)  Still seeking inspiration, he closed his Bible, closed his eyes, opened his Bible again, and, pointing to a verse, he opened his eyes and read,  "Jesus said, 'Go and do thou likewise.'"  Luke 10:37.

The congregation laughed. The evangelist had made his point.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A cup of hot coffee, please.

"I'll have a cup of hot coffee, please." Is that such a difficult order to fill?  Well, yes, apparently; if you live in New England, and you don't want to drink out of a paper or styrofoam cup, and it's winter!  Because in winter, all the china cups are as cold as the ambient temperature, which is pretty cold, so no matter how hot the coffee is to begin with, as soon as it hits that cold cup, the coffee is , at best, warm.  Thus Peter, Marash Girl's father, was always left asking the waitress (at his weekly Marriott "guys" luncheon,) if she could bring him a cup of HOT coffee!  No one figured it out, really.  They kept saying, but the coffee is hot.

But it wasn't.

And finally, at the Public House in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, Marash Girl had her first truly hot cup of coffee, hot even after adding cream.  And why?  Because it was clear that the Publick House had heated its china coffee cups BEFORE pouring the hot coffee into the cups.  And oh, was that coffee good!  Father Peter would have loved it!

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Etiquette of Texting

Marash Girl was sitting at a wake, watching the only young person in the room texting non-stop. . . when suddenly the young woman's phone rang.  Furious, the young woman muttered,  "Doesn't she know that when I text her, I expect to receive a text in reply?"

Miss Manners would have something to learn from the young people of today!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

More fabric softener, fewer soap suds . . . Really?

So you're at the laundromat and, if you're like Marash Girl, you fail to measure out the liquid soap and pour far more enthusiastically than you realize . . .  the soap suds soon cover the glass window of the front loading washing machine . . . and your wash will have to be run through again for another full cycle of rinsing . . .  unless, of course, you know this trick that Marash Girl recently learned.  Add more fabric softener and the soap suds will magically diminish . . . and you will be saved paying (with time and your last quarters) for another cycle of the same load of wash.  

Can a chemist out there in cyberspace explain why this trick works?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Is there an Armenian Church in Dublin?

Marash Girl grew up knowing (as a fact) that there was an ancient Armenian Church structure in Dublin, Ireland.  Searching the web as well as the knowledge of her academic  friends for confirmation of such a church, Marash Girl could find nothing.  But Marash Boy concurred that growing up, his father Nishan would often reference such a structure.  Looking back on those  days, Marash Boy remembered seeing his father in the back room of his cobbler shop in Springfield, Massachusetts, opening a bottle to share a "pop" with one of his Irish friends . . . and hearing his father, Nishan, proudly asking those friends, "Did you know that there's an ancient Armenian Church in the heart of Dublin?"

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

More on Armenians in Ireland . . .

On the subject of Armenians in Ireland (see below, yesterday's post), Guest Blogger Father Krikor Maksoudian writes the following.

"A part of the 'myth' you refer to may be historically true.  The presence of Armenian missionaries in Ireland, Iceland and northern (the Netherlands) and central (Germany) Europe as well as the Russian state around Kiev may not be projected back to the times of St. Patrick (end of the fourth century and beginning of the fifth), but it certainly can be verified on the basis of Western (including Slavonic) sources for the period of the 900-s and 1000-s.  Modern scholarship and archaeology have shown that some Armenian churchmen did missionary work in the above-mentioned regions  Whether they came from Armenia proper or other places is not known.  Back in the 1930-s and 1940-s an Irish woman by the name of F. Henry, an art historian, did research on Armenian and Irish relations.  She wrote articles in French and English and produced a book in English, which I have not seen as it has been out of print ever since I can remember.  It might be worth searching the Widener Library catalogues.  She found similarities between the Armenian khachkars and the Irishcrosses.

"I cannot say anything about the remnants of an ancient Armenian church in Dublin.  As for the “Black” Irish and their origins, it seems to be a myth, since there is no record about any Armenian settlements or colonies in Ireland at any time.  Furthermore, the small number of missionaries that frequented northwestern Europe were monks and bishops with no families and lay fellow travelers.  One must also remember that not all Armenians have dark skin.  Over the millennia our people, located at the crossroads of the ancient and the medieval worlds, have absorbed within their ranks many racial types and are not homogeneous at all in color of skin, in stature and even in racial characteristics."

Hayr Krikor

Monday, March 17, 2014

Armenians in Ireland?

Is it true that Christian Armenian missionaries went from Armenia to Ireland very early in Irish (and Armenian) history . . . that today there are still the remnants of an ancient Armenian church in Dublin?  that the "Black" Irish are the result of the Armenians who went to Ireland and stayed and mixed with the resident population? Marash Girl has wondered about this . . . carried it in the back of her mind for years, but she has never found confirmation or denial of this "factoid".  Still wondering . . . Can you, dear reader, help solve the mystery?

All this to say . . . Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

What? You haven't started saving those onion skins yet?

"Albanian peoples, good peoples; herd sheep on top of mountain; good peoples." . . . Peter (quoting his Albanian friend who had a shop in Newtonville Square . . . ) 

Newtonville Square, several doors down from where these words were first spoken many years ago, Marash Girl met a young man -- Albanian, as it turned out -- A "good people" with a wonderful sense of humor.  When Marash Girl started comparing notes (Easter traditions), she learned that the Albanians also use onion skins to color their Easter eggs (see Marash Girl  but that the young man from Albania now living in Newtonville has been using store bought red dye to color Easter eggs with his son.  "Why?" Marash Girl asked him.  He had no answer, really, but hopefully Marash Girl convinced him to try the traditional Armenian (and, as it turned out, Albanian) custom for coloring Easter eggs using onion skins, a natural dye, rather than the artificial store bought red dye.

Strangely enough, it was that very evening that Marash Girl had a conversation with her Iranian Armenian friends who admitted that they colored Easter eggs with store-bought dye; in fact, they knew nothing about the (apparently)  Western Armenian tradition of coloring Easter eggs with onion skins.  With red onion skins? her friend asked.  No, Marash Girl assured her; with the common brown skinned onions -- all those skins that annoy most cooks as they peel their onions, are skins to be treasured for that moment before Easter, called Good Friday, when we remember the blood shed on the cross;  and believe it or not, those onion skins work their magic, and because they're a natural dye, you can even eat those hard-boiled Easter eggs after they've been colored, and on Easter day, cracked, when children of Armenian extraction joyfully "break open the tomb".

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Dancing Jester at Boston Ballet's CINDERELLA

There they were at the Boston Ballet, awaiting the curtain to open on the  performance of CINDERELLA . . . two Armenian women, one from Massachusetts, and one from California via Iran.   They unilaterally began looking through the list of dancers in the program, as most Armenians are wont to do before a performance begins, looking for names ending in 'ian . . .  and not disappointed, they found one Armenian name -- the name of the man who was dancing the role of the King's jester!  
"How perfect!" quipped Marash Boy.

Friday, March 14, 2014


In presenting her newly published novel, NORTH OF BOSTON, to the gathering at Stellina's Restaurant in Watertown Square,  Elisabeth Elo began by explaining that as an adult, she had never found a character that she wanted to read about.  At the same time, she had had a character living in her mind that would not leave her alone -- a character that insisted on being brought to life on the pages of a book.  That was the beginning . . . . Or perhaps the beginning of NORTH OF BOSTON occurred when Elo was involved in a boat accident.  Elo explained that she began writing this novel, but 60 pages in, she realized that she didn't have enough information to write this book . . . that she needed to do research before continuing.   She put the book aside and wrote another book.  But the character in her mind persisted.  She had no peace until she released the character onto paper.  

Or perhaps NORTH OF BOSTON began during her stay in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where she lived close to Joppa Flats for many years.  Or on Cape Cod during her participation in dolphin shows (where she actually swam with the dolphins, something that she and her cohorts were specifically forbidden to do).  

Elo describes the writing process -- the creative writing process -- as superimposing structure on total chaos.  She talked about the need to be coldhearted (if it doesn't work, throw it away!) . . . the need to  be comfortable with complete uncertainty until the last word.  "You have to be comfortable taking risks in your writing, or the book will be dull."  She explained that she always found structure and research "a pain", but loved writing. She continued, "I'm always surprised when I get to the end of writing a book. . . that's the last word?  Really? I ask myself as I write that last word."

"NORTH OF BOSTON began with the theme of conquering fear -- of getting back on the horse when you've fallen off, as it were," Elo said.  "Lots of things from my life poured out -- I had too much material -- not overtly, but too many themes and preoccupations . . . ", much of it from her own life. She was the youngest of 4 kids, 2 of her brothers were ships men and her sister is now preparing to sail around the world.  As youngsters, her older brothers and sister were always going off boating, and her mother would beg them to take Elisabeth along; they wouldn't!

Elisabeth Elo has written five novels, two of them have been published.  The first published novel was a comic novel, published under her own name; her second novel, NORTH OF BOSTON, is a suspense novel published under her pen name, Elisabeth Elo.  She explained that it was difficult to find a publisher -- that the first agent she approached said her book was terrible, but she found another agent who loved the book and found her a publisher.  Viking proceeded to remove 25,000 words from the manuscript which had taken Elo three years to write.  Elisabeth Elo's NORTH OF BOSTON was published this year, 2014.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

NORTH OF BOSTON, West of Boston

 Elisabeth Elo arrives at Stellina's Restaurant in Watertown Square (west of Boston)
 to talk about her new book, NORTH OF BOSTON
Preparing to write a post on the book NORTH OF BOSTON by Elisabeth Elo, reporting on a book signing that she attended last night at the exquisite Stellina's Restaurant in Watertown Square, Marash Girl, upon doing some research, found that NORTH OF BOSTON was also the title of a book of poetry by Robert Frost containing the poems After Apple-picking; A Hundred Collars; A Servant to Servants; The Black Cottage; Blueberries; The Code; The Death of the Hired Man; The Fear; The Generations of Men; Good Hours; Home Burial; The Housekeeper; Mending Wall; The Mountain; The Pasture; The Self-Seeker; The Wood-Pile.

How is it possible that the author Elisabeth Elo (her pen name) who has a Ph.D. in American Literature, could not have known that she was using the same title as Robert Frost's book of poetry?  She must have known. The discovery stopped Marash Girl cold in her tra ... typing . . . cold enough to end this blog post here.
In the foyer of Stellina's Restaurant in Watertown Square, Ann Salvucci Rossi, who grew up on the west side of Boston, browses through the recently published mystery by Elisabeth Elo,  NORTH OF BOSTON.  Rossi came to the book signing, she admits, because she was attracted by the title of the book.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Where two or three are gathered . . .

The other day, Marash Girl was chastised by Irene for not having attended church . . . Marash Girl promptly and inadvertently misquoted Matthew 18:20: "For when one or two are gathered in my name, there am I also."  Of course, it was late (that's Marash Girl's excuse) and she was tired, but Irene never hesitated.  "NO!  That's not the quote . . . The Bible says, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20, King James Bible).  Being properly chastised, Marash Girl just grinned and said, "Well, the Holy Spirit and I make one!"

The quotation from Matthew brought to mind another of Marash Girl's favorite quotations, this one by William Saroyan:

"For when two of them [Armenians] meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia. . .”   

The passage  is often seen posted on the walls of Armenian-American establishments, or at the least, carried in the hearts of most Armenian-Americans. Could the Saroyan passage here quoted have been inspired by Matthew 18:20? After all, William Saroyan's father was a Presbyterian minister . . .

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

On Being Armenian in Spain

Contributing Blogger Nilla offers the following true story:
My grandparents, who were both Armenian, were adventurous travelers. Between World War II and the late 1970s, they drove their car all over Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. In 1953, I think, they accompanied an American representative to Iran from Tehran to Cairo. What a trip that must have been. On one of their many trips, they were lost in the mountains of southern Spain. They drove and drove and finally saw a couple on the side of the road. They pulled over to ask for directions... First in English, then in French, then in Persian, then in Turkish. No use. They couldn't make themselves understood. They then switched to broken Arabic, broken Russian, broken German. Feeling that they were getting nowhere with this inquiry, my grandfather turned to my grandmother and said in Armenian, "Inch anenk, ban chen haskanoom?" (What shall we do?  They don't understand a thing!) to which the Spanish couple jumped and, in fluent Armenian, joyfully asked, "Amman, dook al hayek??"  (Oh my goodness! Are you also Armenian?)

Monday, March 10, 2014

On Being Armenian in Paris

Is this story apocryphal?  Marash Girl thinks not; she was told the story many years ago by a group of young Armenian men standing at the gate of the Armenian House, Cité Universitaire, speaking French and Armenian to each other on a sunny July afternoon in Paris.  A translation follows.

"So we were all standing here, chattering away in Armenian, telling jokes, and every time we came to the punch line, the black fellow across the way would start laughing.  We continued telling jokes, but  at every punch line, the black fellow would laugh.  We said to each other in Armenian,  "Who is that guy?  Every time we crack a joke, he laughs at the punch line. Is he crazy or what? (Khent e gam inch? Արդյոք  խենդ է  կամ ինչ?)

"On cue, the black fellow across the way called over to us in fluent Armenian: 'Ես ալ հայ եմ… Yes al Hay em! I'm Armenian, too!'"

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Perk up that ho-hum chicken soup!

Perk up that ho-hum chicken soup! Try adding a dollop of rum.

Marash Martha swears by it! (Although she didn't reveal when she adds the rum:  whether just before she simmers the soup for an hour, or just before she serves the soup!)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

"Don't Get Wise With Me, SIster!"

It was after Newton High School's dress rehearsal for 'Camelot', probably around 9 at night, many years ago.  Gil Bickum, Mark Golub, the stars of the show, and some of the other members of the cast and orchestra were in Mark Golub's old '45 Chrysler, driving along Washington Street in Newtonville.

One of the City's Finest pulled the car over.  (The car was missing a headlight, apparently.)

"Okay," barked the officer as he shone his flashlight into their faces.  "What are your names?  You, the driver . ."

"Mark Golub."

"And you?"

"Gil Bickum."

"And you, young lady?"

"Bethel Bilezikian."

"Don't get wise with me, sister.  What's your real name?"

That's what you get for growing up Armenian-American in Newton, Massachusetts . . .

Friday, March 7, 2014

Stomp on those old dried out lemons!

Okay, so here's the scoop.  Marash Girl's mother-in-law Azniv always stomped on her lemons before she squeezed them . . .  Just to soften them up.   Not old dried out lemons, but fresh lemons. (Did she bring this custom with her from Marash?) Then she rinsed the lemons, cut them in half and proceeded to squeeze them on her antique (for her it wasn't antique) glass lemon reamer.   That way she was able to squeeze the very last bits of lemon juice from the rind.

(Marash Girl thinks she does Azniv one better when Marash Girl makes hummus and babaghanoush. . . she peels the lemons, removes the seeds, and puts the lemon -- sans seeds and peel -- into the Cuisinart, blends it up and adds it to the chick pea or eggplant mixture.  Absolutely delicious!  Azniv would approve!) . . . but back to the subject at hand.

Stomping on your lemons is particularly helpful when you've had the lemons around for a long time . . . when the skins become so dried out that the lemon skins become hard . . . impossible to squeeze, (is that what happens to us after a long time?) and everyone in the family is telling you to throw them out. So rather than tossing those forgotten in the corner lemons, stomp on them, rinse them off, squeeze them using your (now) antique glass lemon reamer [whatever you do, don't use a plastic lemon reamer . . . unless you want to change the flavor and the chemical makeup of the lemon juice], and the result will be 'extra-strength' lemon juice.  

Note of warning:  be careful how much you use in your soup, or your soup will be too թթու ["tutou"] for even the hardiest of taste buds to tolerate!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Think before you write? Or write before you think . . .

You know what E. M. Forster used to say . . .

"How do I know what I think until I see what I write . . ."

Marash Girl "knows" that that's true for her . . . . and now she knows for sure!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Return that dish, but never return it empty!

Pleased that someone has gone to the trouble of preparing you a meal on a platter? Gifting you a birthday cake? Delivering you soup when you're feeling under the weather?  Sharing a tray of cookies with you and your family?  

You'll certainly be attentive to returning their pot/platter/tray . . . BUT will you return the pot/platter/tray empty?  Not if you're Armenian!  If you're Armenian, you'd NEVER return a platter empty . . . Never!

Why not?

You tell Marash Girl!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Try Zaytoun!

Tired of the hustle and bustle (now there's a really old-fashioned word) . . . let's try again . . .
Tired of the screaming music and 30 minute waits while you're crowded into the windy entrance of a popular restaurant on Smith Street in Brooklyn Heights? (Luluc, to be exact!) The music was so loud that Marash Girl had trouble even imagining how to swallow the food that might be offered at brunch, much less how to taste it . . . After 20 minutes of cuddling with numerous other hopefuls in the frosty restaurant entranceway, Marash Girl and her entourage decided to try another luncheon venue -- but what? There were many small restaurants along the throroughfare, but all of them were empty . . . this could not bode well.   Marash Girl's son Deron solved the dilemma, (as he is so often wont to do when restaurants or geographical questions rear their pretty heads . . . ) "I know a small place with delicious food -- Zaytoun -- it's right up the street -- only a short 6 block walk."
[Beginning on Smith Street, in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights, it would be a mere 15 minute walk  from Montague (the main drag in Brooklyn Heights) in good weather,-- of course, on this day the roads were covered with ice and slush and snow as were the sidewalks, and snow was raining from the skies!]

Zaytoun Restaurant - Photos by Marash Girl

Seated at Zaytoun, a major discussion ensued when Marash Girl found garmir kufte incorrectly named and attributed to an ethnicity other than her own, but since she makes garmir kufte all the time, she knew what it was . . . Marash Boy's great grandmother -- an ethnic Armenian, as is Marash Girl -- made it all the time . . . Now let's call an Armenian dish an Armenian dish!
Appetizers at Zaytoun . . . Garmir Kufte on the right

Zaytoun did not disappoint us!  The service was charming and the food tasted as good as it looks (see photo by Marash Girl above)!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Inch by Inch

As Marash Girl approached her automobile late that wintery night, she sighed; there she was, wedged in by two brand new autos . . . one inch to spare at each end.  An initial panic set in, calmed by the memory of her father's assurances.

"If the space in which you're trying to park your car is only one inch longer than your car, you can make it."

"Well," Marash Girl muttered to herself, "if I can make it in with only one inch to spare, I should be able to make it out, right, Dad?"

Gamatz, gamatz; little by little; inch by inch . . . Marash Girl tried to extricate her automobile  one  inch to spare on each end, roadways and walkways covered with snow and ice, 20 degrees F with a wind, at 10 o'clock at night . . . back and forth, back and forth, back and forth . . . and she was out!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Just Say Yes, #2

The President of the Senior Class of Watertown High School, Class of 1932, was ahead of his time when he advised his former classmates to "Just say yes!"

Marash Girl recently came across a book by that very title, the hardcover which will go on sale in March of 2014.  (No, Marash Girl did not see the book before she wrote her blogpost, nor has she read it, but YOU can read it when you purchase the brand new paperback publisher's review copy at!)  The book is written by the industrialist Bernard L. Schwartz, who was, according to the publishers, "a boy raised in Depression-era Brooklyn who grew up to become a giant in the aerospace business . . . part memoir, part prescription for a better America in politics and business."  

Marash Girl has concluded that those boys growing up during the depression, Marashtsis included, were something else!  Would that we "collejagans" could do as well in today's economy . . . 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

ON TAP: Bob Oakes (WBUR's Morning Edition) interviews Dr. Rachel Volberg & Laurie Salame on Massachusetts Casinos

Bob Oakes of WBUR's Morning Edition, interviewing
Dr. Rachel Volberg & Laurie Salame, JD, at the WBUR studios
Dr. Rachel Volberg (right) who conducts epidemiological research on gambling throughout the world, and Laurie Salame, JD, (left) who has worked in the casino industry and now teaches courses on hospitality law and casino management.
At the end of the evening, Bob Oakes asked the audience:  "How many of you here today are in favor of casinos in Massachusetts?  How many opposed? How many neutral?"   The vote in one family of three was 1-1-1!
On Thursday evening, February 27, 2014, Bob Oakes of WBUR's Morning Edition, "held court" (live) before an audience of WBUR supporters in the studios of WBUR.  During an interview with  Dr. Rachel Volberg (who conducts epidemiological research on gambling throughout the world) and Laurie Salame, JD (who has worked in the casino industry and now teaches courses on hospitality law and casino management) on the pros and cons of casinos in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Oakes directed a lively, audience-interactive discussion where one member of the audience commented, "Casinos in Massachusetts?  Make way for the pawn shops!" 
Summing up the issue, a young woman challenged the presenters: "Do you know what it's like growing up in a  community blighted by a casino?"

See earlier posts by Marash Girl on the proposed casino in Springfield, Massachusetts:

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Other Side of the River

 Awaiting the Next Snow Storm, Winter, 2014, or
The Other Side of the River, Watertown, Massachusetts

                                                                                                      Photo by Marash Girl:  Charles River, February 26, 2014

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Remembering Allan Halpern

Marash Girl met Andrea in Paris, France, many years before Andrea's marriage to Allan Halpern (we knew him as Avrahm); Marash Boy was best man at their wedding.  Marash Girl posts this eulogy in memory of Allan Halpern -- Avrahm -- who passed away on February 11, 2014, after a long illness.
Allan Halpern & Andrea Colls on their wedding day in Manchester, England
When you’ve grown up with someone your entire life, it’s difficult to summarize all that history in a few words. Allan was always a presence in our lives. He lived with us for a while, and was always present at family gatherings such as Rosh Hashanah and Pesach. We would get together around my mother’s table and discuss, or more precisely, argue about the issues of the day. Part of Allan’s role was the food critic. The gefilte fish was superb, but this year’s matzo balls, perhaps not up to snuff. Next year it might be the reverse. He would know. He had a lifetime of experience with it all.

Allan graduated from Stuyvesant and attended Brown University.  Allan ‘s  willingness to schlepp to Stuyvesant every day illustrates his intellectual seriousness, a quality he displayed his whole life. He was an avid reader and remained passionately engaged with ideas his whole life
At Brown he studied history with one of the great and larger than life characters in the historical profession, Forrest McDonald. My brother Saul, now a professor of history, ran into McDonald at a conference before the elder scholar passed away and mentioned that his cousin Allan had often remarked about the lasting influence of his course, and McDonald smiled and said, yes  Allan Halpern, I remember him “bright and energetic.”  In between the chopped liver and the main course at Passover one might hear Allan defending Hamilton against Jeffersonian heresies, as well as more current arguments on politics and economics.
Allan was a great Epicurean. He loved good food, good wine, classical music, and opera.   He had strong opinions here too, which he had no hesitation in sharing, about the tenor, or which high-end turntable to buy. When I was very young he took me to the old Metropolitan Opera, for a standing room view of the performance. It was a still memorable experience for me.
Allan was a man of strong beliefs. He was a frequent letter writer to the Wall Street Journal, many of which were published, including this one found by Saul that I will quote from. Always well-written and cogently argued, if there was one common theme, it was bemoaning the declining standards of public discourse in an increasingly debased political culture. I would venture to say that our current politics would not have discouraged him in his opinion.
Allan was not afraid to challenge even the most notable of opponents. Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote challenging Arthur Schlesinger, another giant of the field of history.
“ Mr. Schlesinger’s article is a sad abdication of intellectual responsibility. In commenting on a campaign characterized by an unfortunate excess of demagoguery and nastiness, Mr. Schlesinger chooses simply to add an additional dose of vitriol.
Messrs. Reagan and Carter are not stupid men, although the age we live in may appear to distill an excess of simplicity on the part of those engaged in the political process. They must appear to satisfy a broad range of expectations that are politically unobtainable, no doubt fortunately so; and they are forced to champion positions that are often silly and at the same time marginal.”
I think if he were still with us, he could reissue the same opinion by merely bringing the names up to date.
For Allan, genius was a zero sum game. One was a winner or loser, but always a combatant.

Allan liked his independence, so it took him a bit of time to find the right partner in his life. I was in college when he and Andrea were married, and in fact I was with Allan the night before in what passed for a bachelor party, which amounted to both of us getting very drunk and staying out most of the night  hopping around different Greenwich Village bars and coffee shops. But it was clear to me then, and has always been clear to all of us, that he had found a wonderful mate and partner in life, someone that everyone in the family has loved and cherished ever since she became part of our lives. Alan was always an Anglophile, a boy from the Bronx who somewhere along the way picked up a British accent, so of course finding a British wife was the logical next step.

Alan was always the cool cousin, the one who could provide the voice of experience to a younger relative. I will say that with the benefit of hindsight, the advice was occasionally not the best, but it always led to interesting outcomes.  

Allan served as our mentor in all things intellectual. My brother Gary could not be here tonight—his girlfriend’s mother passed away Friday and he had to fly to San Diego. But Allan was an important influence on his life as well, teaching him Algebra when he was in the fifth grade, starting him on the road to his degrees in math, introducing him to the Marshal Chess Club where he eventually became a serious player and taking Gary to Strand and other used book stores, where Gary started on the used book hunting that has been such a large and happy part of his life.

Allan faced many difficulties in his life, with parents who died when he was young, and a sometimes challenging family environment, for our family was not an easy one to live within, but he wanted to find his own way and did. He was an important influence on me and my brothers as we grew up, and a constant presence in our lives. We loved him and we will miss him. Grief is the price we pay for love.

 I will recite a quote from proverbs that I think exemplifies what Allan believed in, and how he lived his life.

The Proverbs of Solomon
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits. 

And lastly, a quote from Albert Einstein that I think Allan would appreciate
Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That signifies nothing. For us believing physicists, the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.

 The song is ended, but the melody lives on.

Written and presented by Gene Cornell at the funeral service of Allan Halpern. Manhattan, New York.