Thursday, June 30, 2011

In the Catskills, Looking for the New York Times

Whenever he goes on vacation, Marash Boy's favorite past time is sleeping late, and then going hunting -- hunting for the New York Times.  And so, when he found himself in the Catskills, and it was after 11 AM, search as he might, he could find no copy of that day's New York Times.  But what he did find made up for it.
On the back of a pick up truck in the supermarket parking lot, Jeffersonville, New York, the Catskills!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pasta Fajole at Ronnie's - Villa Roma, Callicoon, New York

After reading the sign above that appears in the tiny convenience store located on the grounds of Villa Roma in Callicoon, New York, I wondered if it could really be true . . . I didn't have long to wait to find out.  Joe (our friend who was born in Italy) came rushing in the door of our little 2 bedroom unit announcing,  "Guess what!  That sign really means what it says.  Today they have pasta fajole and eggplant parmajan . . . Can you believe it?  And of all days,  Ann Louise made spaghetti and meatballs for supper!"  But I have to say that Ann Louise's spaghetti and meatballs (homemade sauce, homemade meatballs, store bought spaghetti) was the best I have ever tasted! I wonder if she'd share her recipe . . .

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Nasreddin Hodja at the Bath House (Hoca at the Hamam)

My favorite Nasreddin Hodja story was told to me by my father who was an Armenian born in Kumbet, Marash, Ottoman Empire. The story goes like this.
Popular image of Nasreddin Hodja riding backwards on his donkey
One day, Nasreddin Hodja went to the bath house (hamam); after his bath and his lunch, he went to stretch out and nap on one of the cots.  As he looked around the room at the other men stretched out after their bath (sans clothing), he noticed that everyone in the room looked the same -- black hair, black beard, etc., etc.  What shall I do? Nasreddin asked himself.  If I fall asleep, when I wake up, how will I know which one is me?  I have an idea, he said.  I'll tie this little eggplant to my big toe.  That way, waking up, when I look around and see the eggplant tied to my toe, I'll know that that's me.  Comforted by this thought, Hodja proceeded to tie the eggplant to his big toe, and stretching out, he fell asleep.  While he was sleeping, his friends decided to play a joke on him.  Careful not to awaken Hodja, they untied the eggplant from Hodja's toe, and tied the eggplant onto the big toe of the fellow stretched out on the next cot. 

When Hodja woke up, he looked around for the eggplant, and seeing it on the toe of the man stretched out on the cot next to him, he pointed to the man  and said, "Now, I know that that's me, but then who am I?"

N.B. Although when my father told this story, Nasreddin Hodja tied the eggplant onto his big toe, I suspect the original story may have had Hodja tying the eggplant elsewhere on his anatomy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Moros y Cristianos: A meal fit for a king

Marash Girl's first visit to the home of Alfonso Munera and Lucia Mejia was when Alfonso, a scholar from Cartagena, Colombia, was at the University of Connecticut in Storrs on a Fulbright, and Lucia was teaching Spanish at the University.  Through the kindness of Arppie Charkoudian, Marash Girl was introduced to this wonderful young couple and became fast friends that long ago summer -- was it really over 20 years ago?  And so today, when she decided to prepare Moros y Cristianos (black beans and rice), Marash Girl immediately replicated, as she has been doing for many a year, the meal that Lucia made for her on the first day that she visited Lucia's home.  Although Marash Girl usually prepares this dish starting with dried black beans, she (as Lucia did that day after class) did not have the time to soak and cook the dried beans. Luckily she just happened to have a 15 oz. can of Ortega black beans sitting on her shelf, and let's see . . . yes, she had onions, and green peppers and fresh tomatoes!  So Marash Girl was ready to prepare dinner in 20 minutes.  Setting the rice ("Cristianos") on the stove to cook, she started chopping an onion, and set it in the fry pan with olive oil; while the chopped onions were sauteeing, she chopped a green pepper and added it to the onions; then chopped up three small "Italian" plum tomatoes, and added that to the vegetable mix sauteeing on the stove.  While all that was lending a heavenly aroma to the kitchen, Marash Girl opened the can of black beans (Moros), rinsed and drained the beans, and after about 10 minutes, added them to the vegetables.  Stirred that up a bit, simmered for a few minutes more, then with a flick of the wrist, added Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and Aintab red pepper (an Armenian touch which Marash Girl could not resist!)
Moros y Cristianos - Black Beans & White Rice
Voila. (Whoops! Sorry for switching to French!) A meal originating in Colombia, South America, a meal fit for a king.  Thank you, Lucia!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

H.H. Richardson, Baptist Church, Newton Corner, 1884. The doors, the doors!

S. IBRAHIM & Worker look on as Marash Girl bemoans removal of original doors of H.H.Richardson Church
Built by architect H. H. Richardson in 1884 as the Baptist Church, at the northwest corner of Church and Centre Streets in Newton Corner, known as the Immanuel Baptist Church in the 1940's through to the late 1990's, now known as Newton Corner Worship Center, this church body has deigned to remove the ancient brass handled heavy oak doors for new replica doors. Their reasoning? The original oak doors were rotten.  On close inspection, there was no evidence of rot; in fact, S. Ibrahim with whom I spoke on Friday (on left in above photo)  agreed that they were not rotten and reassured me that the doors would be saved, that his son would be installing them somewhere west of Newton as a memorial to the church.

Is there no law in Newton against tearing apart historical monuments designed by world famous architects?

Newton Corner residents, arise!
                    "Baptist Church, Newton, Mass. Built in 1884 by H.H.Richardson, Architect."
                        Image from American Architect & Building News, October 1, 1887

The original heavy oak doors with heavy brass handles thrown aside.
New contemporary doors 'grace' the entrance to this 1884 H.H.Richardson church, now known as the Newton Corner Worship Center.

"Help to maintain the historic fabric of our city!"

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Billy Bulger, The Harvard Club, and Chocolate Chip Cookies

All of the radio/TV/newspaper discussion about the capture of Whitey Bulger reminds me that I recently heard Whitey's brother, Billy, speak at The Harvard Club in Boston, (see Billy Bulger, the Harvard Club, and My Mother).
Billy Bulger signing his books at the Harvard Club, March 2011. Photo Credit: Joyce Greenberg
 The Billy Bulger presentation had everyone laughing, especially his quip, "Don't confuse people with the facts," a comment particularly relevant to today's news commentators reporting on the capture of Billy's brother, Whitey Bulger. Folks waited in line to have their copies of William Bulger's latest book, JAMES MICHAEL CURLEY autographed by the author.  

As Marash Girl was at the end of that line, rather than wait, she decided to wander over to the cookie table, and there she met a gentle and beautiful woman who was circling the same table.  "These are the best," she said, as she pointed at some large round raisin studded oatmeal cookies. . . And these, too," she said, as she picked up several chocolate chip cookies and added them to her napkin full of oatmeal cookies.  "I'm taking these home to my husband; he just loves cookies.  You take some too!  They're only going to throw them away; can't serve them again once they've been out like this!"  Marash Girl, a bit hesitant, wrapped two chocolate chip cookies in a napkin for her husband (Marash Boy hates cookies, so guess who was going to eat them...) "My name is Marash Girl, what's yours?" Marash Girl asked before leaving the table.  "Oh," the gentle and beautiful woman answered, switching the cookies to her left hand, so that she could shake my right hand.  "I'm Mary. . ."

Friday, June 24, 2011


Newly released medical thriller, TUNNEL VISION by Gary Braver
Feasting on small wedges of Stellina's pizza and sipping glasses of wine, an audience of 50 listened intently as author Gary Goshgarian (aka Gary Braver) read from the first pages of his new medical thriller, TUNNEL VISION, just released on June 21, 2011. Hard to guess that Goshgarian would have his audience laughing as he discussed his background research on near death experiences;  he assured us all that the paddles were in the back, just in case.  A physicist by training, a Protestant by birth, he spoke candidly of the conflict he has experienced throughout his adult life with the concept of an afterlife.  "I don't know," he quipped, "but the older I get, the more I'm in favor of one!"
Gary Goshgarian aka Gary Braver signing his newly released book, TUNNEL VISION,  yesterday at Stellina's in Watertown Square
Quoting Woody Allen, Goshgarian ended his talk: "I know I'm gonna die, but I don't wanna be there!"

Thursday, June 23, 2011



Photo from the papers of Peter Bilezikian (1912-1910): Peter is seated in the front row, third from the left, dressed in a suit, white shirt and tie.  The back of the frame in ink in Peter's cursive, reads Peter Bilezikian, 16 Coolidge Hill Road, Watertown, Mass. Whenever we would drive to what is now Logan Airport in Boston,Marash Girl's father, Peter Bilezikian, would regale his children with stories of how this grand airport was once nothing bigger than the little airport at Plum Island, in Newburyport, Massachusetts, when he and his friends in the Watertown High School Aeronautical Club would take the gliders they had just built to the airport in Boston to challenge the birds in flight!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Marash Girl's father, Peter Bilezikian, often told the tale of Pagliacci which went something like this.  There was a man who was always very sad, so sad that he finally decided to go to the best psychiatrist in town.  The psychiatrist had the ultimate cure: "Just go to see the famous clown Pagliacci.  That will cure what ails you!"  The sad man answered, "But I am that clown. I am Pagliacci!"

Sal Richards signing his autobiography, BEHIND THE LAUGHTER, HIDDEN TEARS
I was reminded of my father's story when funny man Sal Richards stood before an audience at Villa Roma in Callicoon, New York, and made everyone laugh for over an hour, but after the show he sold an autobiographical treatise on his not so funny life: Behind the Laughter, Hidden Tears.
Sal Richards holding his autobiography, BEHIND THE LAUGHTER, HIDDEN TEARS
While Marash Girl was standing in line waiting to purchase Behind the Laughter, Hidden Tears, she decided to ask Sal to write "something funny" in the book.  And he did exactly that, writing on the title page, "Something funny. Sal Richards", eliciting yet another laugh from the audience that was still waiting to purchase the autobiography.

When you read Sal's book, you'll understand why Marash Girl remembered Peter's Pagliacci story .

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


No sooner had I written my post on the Stone Arch Bridge  (which took several hours with all the photos), the post disappeared.  Now this is the first time that has ever happened.  Do you think it was the ghost's doing?  Well, I'm going to try again with a humbler post and see how it goes.
Very kich. The Stone Arch Inn, located down the street from the Stone Arch Bridge, uses the image on its place mats.  Should we bother going to the bridge? After all, it's raining out.  Maybe it's enough that we look at the images on the wall of this restaurant (scroll down to see them).  My husband overhears the one line that will get me to risk my camera in the rain for the sake of some photos.  The barmaid says, "But the bridge is haunted."  "Did you hear that?" my husband asked me.  "The bridge is haunted."

Peaceful as it seems, does evil lurk beneath?
The story goes that in 1880, the German Swiss immigrants Henry & Philip Hembt built a road over Callicoon Creek connecting the old Newburg-Cochecton Turnpike and Callicoon Valley, a road that was important for commerce.  Less than two years later, in 1882, a hex murder was committed on that bridge, labeling it forever as haunted.  This is what happened.  Adam Heidt thought himself cursed by George Markert's hex, a hex which was making Heidt's life miserable.  One dark night, Adam & his son, with the hope of ending the hex, attacked Markert, killed him, and threw him over the bridge into the cold waters below.  It is said that on cold dark nights, Markert's ghost can be seen walking over the bridge, a bridge which is now a preserved historical structure.  I wonder if the ghost is included in that historical preservation.
They say that on dark cold nights, the ghost appears.

Is that the ghost reflected in the waters below?

Is that the ghost walking over the bridge? No, it's not dark enough! It's just Marash Boy looking for the ghost!
Below are the images of the three arched stone bridge that line the walls of the Stone Arch Inn; over the years, the bridge has captured the imagination of all who live in and around Jeffersonville, New York.

Can you find the ghost in any of the images above?

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Museum of Printing, North Andover, Massachusetts

On a Monday not so long ago, the Massachusetts and Rhode Island Antiquarian Booksellers held a meeting in North Andover, Massachusetts, at The Museum of Printing. It was my first visit to this unique collection.

Museum of Printing posterThe Museum of Printing, a small unpretentious brick building which faces the common in North Andover, is filled with the treasures of, yes, the past world of printing.  Little known to folks as close as Andover, and even less known to the general populace of Massachusetts, the museum is run by volunteers, and houses a vast collection of antique printing presses and printing memorabilia. To the right is the museum's Letter Presses poster which is downloadable for free from

If you love books and their history, and you love the printed word on paper, you'll love this museum.  A must see.  Get President Frank Romano to give you a tour. You won't be sorry!

The Museum of Printing
800 Massachusetts Avenue
North Andover, MA 01845
(978) 686-0450 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Doing the Lord's Work: Tornado Relief at the First Church in Monson, Massachusetts

Volunteers at the First Church in Monson collect names of people in need and coordinate volunteers who are ready to work for the tornado relief.  If you want to help, you can donate money, buy a T-shirt for $20, or simply show up to volunteer.  If you don't know how you can help, just show up; they'll be able to use your skills, whatever they are. When I delivered a carload of sundries and asked the crew what was needed, they said that monetary donations would be greatly appreciated as well as wheelbarrows, chain saws that work, and people who can work heavy machinery to clean up debris and remove trees and limbs.

The Towns of Monson and Wilbraham have established separate funds to help Monson and Wilbraham residents who have suffered losses due to the storm.  Anyone wishing to make donations may do so at any branch of the Monson Savings Bank, or send a check payable to: "Monson Tornado Victims Relief Fund" Monson Savings Bank, 146 Main St, Monson, MA 01057 or "Wilbraham Tornado Victims Relief Fund" Monson Savings Bank, 100 Post Office Park, Wilbraham, MA 01095.

The First Church of Monson, United Church of Christ, missing its steeple which was torn off by the hurricane.

The hurricane even destroyed the church sign.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Goats Survived! The Tornado, Westview Creamery, Monson, Massachusetts

Aline & Raffi, August, 2009, enjoying Westview Creamery ice cream in the shade!

Feeding the goats, Westview Farm, August, 2009
WESTVIEW CREAMERY is Raffi and Aline's favorite place to visit, as much for the goats as for the ice cream. On top of a mountain in Monson, Massachusetts, it has the best ice cream around (it's very own, made on site, ice cream which far outshines Ben & Jerry's) and, in the fall, the biggest pumpkins you've ever seen.  But what makes it most special for many of us, especially the young ones, is the goats; every summer's day there are children surrounding the goat pen, joyously feeding the goats 'ice cream cones' filled with goat food pellets, or simply handfuls of grass.
Thus, when  Raffi & Aline learned that the tornado had destroyed their summer cabin on Wilbraham Mountain, the cabin that their great grandfather had built to replace the lost homeland, a haven for all to come and celebrate life,  the children asked, "But are the goats okay?"  Marash Girl had, in fact, tried to drive down East Hill Road in Monson to see if the goats were okay, but the road was blocked for days. Yesterday Marash Girl was able to drive along East Hill Road to Westview Farm & Creamery. There was devastation on both sides of the road, huge trees down on every side, but the farm looked intact.  With a sigh of hope, Marash Girl proceeded to the ice cream shop and spoke with the manager.  The only damage was to the barn -- the roof blew off -- and to the goat's shelter which was blown in half.  We've ordered another goat shelter, but it will be  a while before it gets here. We're all fine, she said, all of us and all of the goats.  We all survived.

Wilbraham Mountain can be seen on the horizon to the left of the goat pens. In the foreground, a post tornado temporary shelter has been set up for the goats.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sea Dog Rogers responds to our description of the Tornado in Wilbraham

"It must have been a shattering experience,"  said Sea Dog Rogers in all seriousness.

Laughter exploded at the table from all of us who had barely been able to smile since the tornado hit on June 1, 2011.

N.B.  Sea Dog Rogers will soon be a regular blogger at SeaDogRogers.Blogspot.Com.   Go to the site and become a follower! You won't be sorry!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nasreddin Hodja Rides Out the Tornado on top of Wilbraham Mountain

 Albeit on the back of a donkey, and sitting backwards, Nasreddin Hodja rides out the tornado, and here's the photo to prove it!  Hiding under the timbers of the no longer cabin, there he was, waving happily and sharing his wisdom.  I couldn't hear what he was saying, but perhaps you can!  Please share in the comments below Nasreddin Hodja's tale, the one he's telling after surviving this tornado.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


The last time we went to the cabin in Wilbraham, before the tornado, we found a letter from Ernie, our good neighbor.  The letter, too, was lost in the tornado's onslaught, but I remember its words.  Ernie wrote that he had blown the leaves that had surrounded the cabin (and they were in piles that reached to the roof), he had blown them away from the structure so that there would the cabin would be in no danger of fire, and, he added with joy, that there were two eggs in the birds nest on our front porch.   Ernie had called us mid-winter to tell us that he had gone up to the cottage in the deep winter snows, dragging a ladder, and pulled snow off the roof of the cabin to prevent the roof from caving in.  And Ernie, good neighbor that he is, called my husband yesterday to say that he had salvaged as many of the books as he could from under the pile of rubble. What Ernie didn't know is that books, once soaked with mud and rain, could not be salvaged.  Ernie, our good neighbor from the other end of Peak Road, had once again risked his 82 year old life for us.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Birds and the Books: After the Tornado in Wilbraham

The last book we looked at before the tornado in Wilbraham was the book on how to identify wildflowers.  We were trying to identify what turned out to be the wild asters around the ancient peach tree, but the last birds we looked at were Momma and Poppa flycatcher feeding their baby flycatchers on the ledge above the porch (See blog post for June 2, 2011 )  Thus when I saw the bird book laying open on the ground under some branches, I fully expected it to be open to the page describing flycatchers.  As you can see (above), it was not.  So what happened to our family of flycatchers?  If Momma and Poppa flycatcher survived, are they grieving their lost home and their lost little ones who could certainly not yet fly away, much less catch their own flies for supper?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tornado Relief MONSON: A Letter from Governor Deval Patrick, June 10, 2011

Dear Friend,

Last Wednesday night, I stopped by and spoke briefly at the Monson High School graduation.  This was not my first time speaking to graduating students, but it was certainly one of the more poignant.

Monson was one of the communities hardest hit by last week’s tornadoes.  There was chaos and destruction across the entire town and surrounding communities.  The high school graduation was postponed for a week and, in addition to the graduates and their families, the entire town showed up.  Often at graduations, you see in the eyes of the seniors a nervousness and excitement about their future.  Though that was present, you could also tell most of the 103 graduates were looking backward as much forward, to what that community and their families had just experienced and how it had pulled them together.

Faith in our neighbors can help us rise up from disaster.  The bonds of community, love and common cause are stronger today in Monson and other damaged towns than any tornado’s destruction.   In Monson and across the state, we have come together as a Commonwealth.  In the last week, many of those Monson High students personally modeled that spirit of community.

As your Governor and your neighbor, I ask you to assist the families and residents so deeply affected by the June 1st storms.

Please consider making a monetary donation to the Massachusetts Statewide Disaster Relief Fund.   This effort, hosted by the United Way of Tri-County, can be found online at

To volunteer your time or donate products or equipment, I encourage you to use the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Donations Management System at

Together we will rebound, rebuild and renew, and become an even better, stronger Commonwealth.  Thank you.

Deval Patrick

N.B. Note from Marash Girl.  If you live locally (in Newton and surrounding area), I will be driving out with relief supplies several times a week.  Please send your contact info and I will get in touch with you.  Thanks.  Let's help those who have nothing.  They're in need of as new contemporary clothing, male or female, adult or child clean and neatly folded, unopened sundries (soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sunscreen), as new children's toys, bottled water.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Let There Be Light: Grandma Yepros and the Clothesline

Funny the things you remember.  I remember my grandmother Yepros walking about the house as if she had sight. I would often find her in the back room of our cellar, lit only by the dim light of the windows which opened onto the cellar holes, windows spattered with the soil that splashed up when the fig trees (which were planted in the cellar holes) were watered.  The washtub was located in the back room, the room next to the large room that housed the pool table (more on that later).  I remember watching Grandma taking the wet clothes, one by one, from the tub of the washing machine and feeding my father's shirts, or my socks, or my little brother's pajamas into the ringer of the new electric washing machine.  How she did this without sight and without ever getting her fingers caught was incomprehensible to me and is incomprehensible to this day. I would watch her patiently put each piece of clothing through the ringer, toss the rung out wet shirt or nightgown into her big rattan basket, the one with a handle on each side, and when all the clothes had been put through the ringer, carry that now heavy rattan basket of clean, wet clothes up the wooden back stairs to the back door at the top of the cellar stairway. Holding the large basket under her left arm, she would open that back door which had a glass window in it through which everyone else could see the back yard and the clothesline, except she couldn't because she couldn't see.  She would make her way to that clothesline slowly, hoping (I'm guessing) that we or the neighbor children would see her and run to her to guide her to that clothesline, which happened because, once she reached the clothesline and set down that heavy basket of wet clothes,  she would put her damp hand into the pockets of her faded cotton apron, and give each child a piece of candy -- Joyce and Ronnie and Wessie especially who always saw her heading to the clothesline because their house was on the second floor of the brown shingled two-family house next door and they could see her whether they were inside or out.

I would stand in our backyard, a very little girl, watching my grandmother hang clothes and praying that Jesus would come soon so that my grandmother would be able to see again.

Here are the words of the chorus I sang as I watched Grandma, always in Armenian as my Uncle Vartan (Rev. Vartan Bilezikian) had taught me:

Aleluiah, Aleluiah, Hisous noren bidi ka, bidi ka,
Aleluiah, Aleluiah, Hisous noren bidi ka.

Halleluiah, Halleluia, Jesus is coming, is coming again.
Halleluiah, Halleluia, Jesus is coming again.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Hand Pump in the Kitchen: Once Upon a Time on Plum Island, Newburyport, Massachusetts

Charlie Alia offered my father a week at his summer cottage, a wooden house of two floors with no plumbing, no electricity and no insulation, plunked on a sand dune on Plum Island; it would be our first of two summer vacations at the ocean, and it was a memorable one.  I loved Plum Island, the miles of open ocean, the surf, the sand dunes.  Walking for miles along the dunes . . . Standing with my father as he cast into the surf in hopes of catching a striped bass or a bluefish. . . Going deep sea fishing with my father and catching a pail full of mackerel!  My father used to love to tell the story of my getting a bite on the end of my line, and my pulling on the fishing line so hard that the mackerel came flying out of the water still attached to my line, swung behind me and smacked the man (who was fishing from the opposite side of the deep sea fishing boat) on the back of his sunburned neck.  He came out swinging, wanting to punch out the guy who had done that, but all he found was a little 8 year old girl.

I loved the old wooden ice box and the iron hand pump (it was painted red!) in the kitchen of that cottage and was delighted to help my mother pump the water, the hand pump being the only source of our water for a week.  (We bathed in the ocean!)  And most of all I didn't love the outhouse -- my first experience with one!   Phew!

We all had very bloody crucifixes hanging on the matchboard wooden walls above our beds.  That was a first!  Kind of scary for us kids.

When we first arrived on the island, I noticed a cute wooden church on the west side of the main road, the road that would lead to the cottage; I asked if we could go to that church tomorrow which was Sunday.  It was then that I learned that all churches are not alike and that no, we would not be attending church that Sunday, probably the only Sunday we ever missed.   As it turned out, I never did visit the Plum Island Roman Catholic Church, and now it's been torn down, making way for yet another megamansion.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Hand Pump that withstood a Tornado: Wilbraham Mountain, June 1, 2011

The following story related by Marash Boy to Marash Girl today.

Born in Marash and survivors of the Armenian Genocide, our large extended family was accustomed to the never-ending supply of water gushing through their homes in the Hatounya Mehelleh and other neighborhoods of Marash.  [All of Marash, actually, was known for its water.] Never was there a lack of water in the homeland.  And so when Uncle Harry bought the first parcel of land on the top of Wilbraham Mountain, simply replacing a small piece of the homeland, he had not even thought about water, assuming, of course, that it would be there.   As luck would have it, there was no water, and so upon arriving in multiple cars, the first task the Marashtsi families faced was to forage for spring water in various locations on the mountainside.  With odd assortments of aluminum pots and pans and tin pails, Kermer led the children and the young adults in a parade North on Middle Road and East down Monson Road to schlep the heavy pails of water back up the mountain to the camp.

Consequently, from the earliest days, in the desire to find water on the property on top of Wilbraham Mountain (and this was well before any structure was built),  the men and young boys attending Sunday shish kebab picnics dug many disappointingly dry well holes.  Sunday after Sunday, dowsers were brought up to locate yet another well hole to be dug, only for the hole to be dry.  Finally, the year Marash Boy was born, one of the dowsers proved right and when his two pronged stick of witch hazel pointed downward in the open field next to the orchards and garden, the men and boys dug for 26 feet, and water gushed for the relocated Marashtzis.
Marash Boy (in background) gazes at hand pump (in foreground) spared by tornado.
Photo Courtesy of Karoun Charkoudian

The tornado has spared that hand pump for the birds and the wasps who choose to nest there.

 N.B. Patriarch of the clan Nishan often marveled at how water could be found on the very top of the mountain, comparing it to the air space on top of the rounded part of an egg.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Marash Girl asks any of you who have stories about the happier days at the cabin in Wilbraham to please send them via comments (below) or email.  Here is one which piggybacks on another and another.

Having grown up summering in the cottage on Wilbraham Mountain, Dr. George Charkoudian built a year round house and swimming pool for himself and his family on the land bordering the family land to the North.  Those were wonderful days.  The Thanksgiving and Easter celebrations, the sitting on top of the rise at the back of his house watching the sunset, the lighting of sparklers with Charlie Merrick to the West of the swimming pool watching the fireworks on the Fourth of July, Uncle George's famous losh kebab which he carefully prepared with a mix of ground lamb and beef and chopped onions and parsley, and then barbecued behind his house, facing the cabin.

One summer, Marash Martha brought her children to visit us at the cabin:  Katie, Caroline, and Alison.  On a beautiful hot summer's day in the 1980s, Marash Girl and her children Nisha, Lorig, Deron, Karoun, along with Katie, Caroline, and Alison, all trekked over to Uncle George's house to go swimming, but were they ever surprised at what they found at the pool:  not frogs, as sometimes happened, not Juliette, Uncle George's Dalmatian, but full-sized cows having a leisurely drink of the water from Uncle George's pool. Yes, they were cows, gigantic cows, we assumed from Nietupski's farm, which bordered our land to the east.  The kids all went running and screaming to the cabin and a call was made to Nietupski, who came to claim his cows.

This incident was apparently not an isolated one.  Here is a memory that Arax writes:
Kermer (Arax's Grandmother Sanjian who was a survivor of the Armenian Genocide) used to tell us that in Marash, before the Genocide, she had her own horses and would hang on to the horse's mane as she rode the horse bareback.  While telling us this, she would motion with her right hand as if grabbing a horse's mane.  Thus it did not really surprise us that whenever stray cows from the Nietupski Farm would break through the barbed wire and stray onto our land,  the outcry from the children brought Kermer (a tiny woman well under 5 feet tall); walking directly to the lead cow, she would grab it by the ear, turn it around, and walk it back to Mr. Nietupski's pasture at the end of our 'driveway', all the other cows following.

The 'driveway' leading east to Nietupski's pasture.

Thus, years later, when Uncle George went to the Town of Wilbraham to ask permission to build a house on what was known as the "Smith land" bordering the family land to the north, by that time a peach orchard owned by Manley, but purchased by Uncle George, the neighbors gathered in support.  Among them were the Nietupski brothers, dairy farmers from the neighboring farm.  They each stood in possibly their first public appearance.  The first brother said, "The Charkoudians are good neighbors; they always return our cows."  The second brother said, "The Charkoudians are good neighbors; they always return our cows."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wild Asters before the Tornado: Wilbraham Mountain, Massachusetts

Photo taken looking north from the cabin on Wilbraham Mountain: May 30, Memorial Day, 2011; the tree no longer stands.
The peace that passeth all understanding: the ancient peach tree that once bore fruit continued to provide succor to the wild asters that grew beneath.

N.B. From the internet: The National Weather Service released their Preliminary Storm Survey of the Wednesday, June 1, 2011, Tornado Outbreak, confirming an EF3 from Westfield to Charlton, and two EF1 tornadoes in Wilbraham & North Brimfield, totaling 3 touchdowns.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Our white mulberry tree, June 2, 2011
"Here we go 'round the mulberry tree . . . " sang the winds of the tornado on Wilbraham Mountain, as they danced around our ancient mulberry tree. "But we were only playing," wailed the tornado, as the mulberry tree crashed to the ground.

On Memorial Day, 2011, the white mulberry tree was loaded with fruit.  30 feet high, its branches reaching out 25 feet in circumference, the tree would offer its ripe mulberries to us and the birds and the squirrels, for sure by the Fourth of July This tree was brought to our land as a hishadagh հիշատաղ , a remembrance of the mulberry trees that grew in Marash, where the fruit of the white mulberry was so treasured that garlands of dried white mulberries would hang in the shops of the marketplace to the delight of Armenians, Turks, Kurds, Jews, Greeks . . . all neighbors in the Marash of the Ottoman Empire. In Wilbraham, Medzmama (who grew up in Marash) used to spread a sheet under the tree, shake the branches, coaxing the tree to drop its fruits in abundance;  the
Ripe White Mulberries
children would gather around and eat the fruits off of the sheet --without the sheet,  the mulberries would have been lost in the lush grass that grew beneath the tree.  The mulberry tree was the first stop my father would make after driving to Wilbraham from Newton: from the porch of the cabin, we could see him down in the field, patiently eating one white mulberry, and then another, and another, until his appetite, his joy, and his memories were filled.    But that all changed with the tornado's song. Or, as my father would say, "Those days are gone . . . forever."

Monday, June 6, 2011


Yesterday we went back to try to make sense of the devastation.  We drove down Tinkham Road in Wilbraham and saw massive trees downed within inches of the houses they once shaded.  Going North, we drove past the Merrick Farm stand on Main Street; again massive trees uprooted surrounding the vegetable stand which remained unscathed for the summer's harvest.  We were not allowed to drive up Tinkham Road from Main Street so we went on, driving up Main Street and then south on Monson Road to the top of the mountain, past Peak Road (at the end of which sits our mountain of rubble, our cabinless land, our devastation), and on down Monson Road towards Monson; the houses on both sides of the road were unscathed, only a few trees down.  We took a right (going south) on Glendale Road, past the 'Road Closed' signs, to try to make sense of this tornado's path.  About 1/4 mile in, we could see, looking westward up the mountain, the path of trees downed, as the tornado made its way Eastward.  We slowed in order to inch our way past the National Grid trucks and the huge vehicles carrying tree removal equipment.  The houses to our right and our left were intact, surrounded by massive trees which had fallen around them, missing the houses by an angel's wing.  The folks, in a daze, were piling branches along the side of the road, the piles now approaching the height of their houses.  We turned around and, taking a right, continued up Monson Road towards Monson; again no damage to the houses along Monson Road.  But we knew of damage, of the damage we could not see. Calling our friend Jerry Ferrendino, who used to cut our lawn, cell phone to cell phone, to tell him there was no need to come, that the lawn was covered with downed trees, and there was no longer a cabin, he told us that he too had no house, that all the houses on his side of Wade Road, in a direct line with our cabin on top of the mountain, were gone. 

We did not enter the town of Monson to see the devastation. We did not want to; we did not have to. We had seen the front page of the Boston Globe. We had heard from Jerry Ferrendino. We had heard from the National Grid man whose offices are in Monson.  The steeple of the church, gone; the original library building damaged, the roof of Adams Grocery, blown off.  Houses flattened. We did not want to join the sightseers; we were not sightseers.  We were one of the dazed victims of this unnamed tornado.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


The first thing  Marash Girl saw on approaching the cabinless mountain were the two Bibles amongst the rubble of books, both with pages blowing in the wind. . . the only books, by the way, whose pages were blowing in the wind.  She noticed them, but that was all.  The massiveness of loss was so overwhelming, that when she saw the wet and damaged books, including the Bibles, she could not focus.  When she told her daughter Lorig about the Bibles that evening, her daughter asked what page the Bibles were open to . . . joking, she asked if the outstanding chapter and verse stated, "Go and do thou likewise," referring to an old joke that many of you may know. 

Yesterday, on approaching the rubble for the second time, Marash Girl took a moment to look at the two tornadoed Bibles and this is what she found.

One leather bound Bible lay open to the book of Exodus.

This leather bound Bible used to be on the end table next to the bed in which Peter Bilezikian slept on those rare occasions when he would sleep over in Wilbraham.  It lay open to the words of Jesus printed in red.  John, Chapter 16, Verses 22 ff.  "You now therefore have sorrow, but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice and your joy no man taketh from you. And in that day you shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever you shall ask the Father in my name, He will give to you." [AND THE FOLLOWING WORDS MARKED BY MY FATHER PETER IN INK]: "Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name.  Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full." 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Armenian Brandy Survives Tornado on Wilbraham Mountain

Another bottle that survived unscathed: Armenian brandy brought to Wilbraham in 1971 by Peter and Jennie Bilezikian after their trip to Armenia. The brandy sits on the rocks that were once the foundation for the cabin that the tornado destroyed two days ago on the top of Wilbraham Mountain.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Tornado, the Cabin on Wilbraham Mountain & Humphrey Bogart

Proving the rumor true, here is the bottle of gin that survived the tornado.

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”  Marash Boy (who summered in the cabin on Wilbraham Mountain since he was three years old)  commenting on the tornado.