Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Don't ask; just bring."

Whenever Marash Girl (or her mother, for that matter) would ask guests if they would like something to eat or drink, Peter, Marash Girl's father, a survivor of the Armenian genocide, would say, "Don't ask; just bring."  To this day, Marash Girl reminds herself of this lesson.  And why the lesson?  Peter was taught,
"When they ask you if you'd like something to eat, refuse the first two times; if they don't ask the third time, don't accept."  Thus his chiding, "Don't ask, just bring."  "Many a time,"  Peter told Marash Girl, "I wished they would have asked for the third time.  They never did."
Not having learned her lesson, Marash Girl always offers Marash Boy refreshment more than once.  Marash Boy always gets annoyed and replies, "I already told you I don't want any."

Monday, July 30, 2012

Three Cheers for the Flower that Escaped

With the increase in fenced gardens, and neatly configured raised beds, the individual will of the plant is lost.  One flower, however, has managed to escape her confines; three cheers for her!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

SANDCASTLE GIRLS: Something there is that doesn't like a line (to paraphrase Robert Frost)

Armenians walking into the desert on a canvas at the Armenian Library Museum of America, as Chris Bohjalian speaks on his most recent novel, THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS, #7 on the New York Times Best Seller List
Something there is that doesn't like a line (to paraphrase Robert Frost).  Even nature agrees.  There are no straight lines or right angles in nature (that is to say, occurring naturally in nature.) And if you have begun reading SANDCASTLE GIRLS, from here on in, every time you see a line, you will remember the "line" from the beginning of Sandcastle Girls, when Elizabeth arrives in Aleppo, and the first thing she sees is a line of skinny black naked women straggling into Aleppo -- African slaves?  No, she realizes immediately; Armenian women from the death march, headed for Der el Zor. . . That line was in our face,  literally, (though in white rather than black),  all through Chris Bohjalian's talk about his writing of the SANDCASTLE GIRLS at the Armenian Library and Museum of America on Thursday evening (see photos in the Marash Girl's last two blog posts for July 27 and 28).  And yet, we, the members of the audience, had to "stand in line"after the talk in order to have our copies of the SANDCASTLE GIRLS signed, as grumbling we did for over an hour.  And when we reached Chris Bohjalian, he still had ink in his pen, a smile on his face, and cheer in his voice.  But then again, he had not been standing in line. Upon Marash Girl relating all of this to Marash Boy, he commented, "I hate standing in line.  I don't stand in line.  I simply wait until there is no line, and then go up to accomplish whatever it is that the line was waiting for."  And that brought to mind Marash Girl's father, Peter Bilezikian, who would never stand in line for food (at a buffet, at a wedding, or anywhere else).  He would go hungry if his beautiful wife Jennie, Marash Girl's mom,  didn't bring him his food.  And why was that?  His mother, Yepros Kurtguzian Bilezikian, had taught him as they lived through the starvation and deprivation and . . . and . . . and . . . (you fill in the blanks) of the deporation and genocide, that it was better to go hungry than to beg.  And standing in line for food, as far as the Bilezikians in Marash were concerned, was begging.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


On Thursday evening, Marash Girl (along with 300 others) attended a presentation & book signing by author Chris Bohjalian for his newly published work, THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS. Today, THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS is #7 on the New York Times Best Seller List.
Beginning with the levity of a stand-up comedian, Chris Bohjalian spoke of his book tours; he commented, "The books about vampires got a lot of Americans reading and thinking again. . . . The good news is that there are still more public libraries in the United States than there are McDonald's!"  The following is a partial record of Chris Bohjalian's talk at the Armenian Library and Museum of America on Thursday night, July 26, 2012, as Marash Girl remembers it.

"My mother was Swedish, my father Armenian.  My father passed away 364 days ago.  After my father passed, we found my mother's key ring on his desk. On it were a religious medal and a brass charm from Armenia.  That was my mother, the "odar".  She was so close to my grandparents -- her in-laws -- that when my father went to play golf, my mother visited her in-laws.  She would dress me in an "English" outfit with red velvet knickers and have me sing "I'm Henry the 8th, I am, I am" for my grandparents, Leo and Haigouhi Bohjalian -- Their house was built in 1928, the floors were covered with oriental carpets, the furniture with Armenian lacework, the bookcases full of Armenian books in the Armenian language; and always the aroma of lamb and mint (my grandmother cooked lamb and mint for my grandfather every day for breakfast)!  [If you've read the novel, you will recognize some of these facts!]  Growing up in Tuckahoo, NY, my father knew no English when he entered kindergarten, but became the quintessential American -- A Madison Avenue TV producer.  I only heard him speak Armenian when he was teasing his parents, or bickering with them.  I looked at old family photos.   My grandfather and grandmother . . . the little boy is my dad.     I have this photo on my desk and I look at it every day. My grandfather always wore a suit --  the only time my father remembers him taking the suit jacket off was when my grandfather had to check the furnace!  My grandparents knew they were genocide survivors but never talked about it.  All of my great grandfather's generation were murdered.  .  .  In 1993 I tried to write a novel about the Armenian Genocide -- it took me 1 year and 3 months -- but it was unsalvageable and I had to package it up and send the manuscript to the archives of my alma mater . . . [Chris Bohjalian never mentioned the name of his alma mater. Chris graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst College.]

[Chris continues.]  "The slaughter you know next to nothing about", the genocide of the Armenian people 1915-1920, is a desperately important story to tell, as genocide to peoples around the world continues to this day.  Yet once upon a time, people knew. The New York Times of the period ran 145 articles on the slaughter of the Armenians, and on August 30, 1939, Hitler commented, "Be merciless.  After all, who remembers the annihilation of the Armenians?"

[Chris continues.]  On Feb. 2, 2010, I was having coffee with my friend Khachig Mouradian, editor of the Armenian Weekly, who asked me, "When are you going to try again?"  At the time, my father was seriously ill, and the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide was looming (2015) . . . I decided, "Yes.  This is the time."  But I needed a personal way in -- I would never know their travails, but I knew them. My mother used to say that my grandparents' home was the "Ottoman annex of the Metropolitan Museum of Art".  Yes, I knew them.  Thus I began writing THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS, the narrator being the female version of me.  In this very building --  the Armenian Library and Museum of America -- the narrator sees a photo -- a clue to what becomes a love story and a detective story, and it is the story of what happened to the Armenian people in 1915.  This is the most important book I will ever write; it's the story I've lived a half century to tell.
Chris Bohjalian inscribes and signs the title page of his latest novel, THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS.

Friday, July 27, 2012


Last night, Chris Bohjalian, the author of the recently published and widely acclaimed novel, THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS, spoke to over 300 people who crowded into the third floor gallery of the Armenian Library and Museum of America.  More on his presentation tomorrow, but today, Marash Girl, who has always believed in free writing (if you read her blog posts, you're well aware of that), would like to record novelist Chris Bohjalian's response (during the questions & answer period at the end of the evening) to a would be author in the audience.

Member of audience:  "What advice do you have for a would be novelist?"

Chris Bohjalian: "Let me tell you a story.  When I was in college, I wanted to take a class in creative writing.  In order to do that, I had to submit a sample of my writing, and meet with the creative writing professor.  And meet we did.  As I entered the room, I saw my writing sample sitting on the professor's desk.  As the professor looked up at me, I had a sense of foreboding:  'I have three words for you, she said.  Become an accountant.'  I never did take a course in creative writing.  Now, 15 published books later, I can only tell you that if you want to write, write.  Write every day.  Write what you love.  If you like mysteries, write mysteries; if you like romance, write romance; if you like poetry, write poetry.  But write! And never stop reading!"

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Carnivorous Plant Exhibit, U.S. Botanic Gardens, Washington, DC

Thinking the whole thing a joke, kids pose as food for carnivorous plants.

Captured by Marash GIrl's camera and the carnivorous plant (above), this fly is not laughing.

"Hands on" displays at the Botanic Gardens help kids to understand the reality of meat-eating plants.
The question is, can the plant tell the difference between an insect and a human finger?  Enila tells of a friend who has a pet plant to which she feeds ground meat!  Are there vegan plants? Plants that eat other plants?
N.B.  Marash Girl could have used a few carnivorous plants in her kitchen last week! (See Marash Girl's post, A Phalanx of Flies)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


After a two mile walk, a train ride, and another mile walk in 90 degree Washington, DC weather (that includes humidity, of course), the descendants of Armenian genocide survivors arrive at the Library of Congress to view the latest exhibition.
But first a drink of cool water in the Library's courtyard.
Thrilled to see the Armenian exhibit featured at the entrance, the descendants pose for a snapshot before entering the Library of Congress to view the exhibit entitled, "To Know Wisdom and Instruction: The Armenian Literary Tradition at the Library of Congress."

The family's cities of origin:  Aintab (spelled Antap on map) & Marash (spelled Maras on map) in the center of this ancient map, a copy of which (above) was mounted on the wall of the exhibition hall.

In recognition of the 500 years of the printed Armenian word, the Library of Congress mounted the exhibition, "To Know Wisdom & Instruction: The Armenian Literary Tradition at the Library of Congress".  In its introductory wall panel presenting a brief overview of Armenian history, the Library refers to "The Hamidian massacres".  Does anyone know what that means?  In 1895, then again in 1915.  Hello, out there. . . The Library of Congress, of all places, mounting an exhibition using words that would be unrecognizable to most.  Hamidian?  Try Turkish.  Massacres?  Try Genocide. Ironically, the exhibition was entitled, "To Know Wisdom & Instruction".  Marash Girl wonders how wise and/or instructive was the omission of reference to the true history of the attempted murder and destruction of an entire race of peoples, the genocide (1915-1920) of the Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish government.

After a brief look at the ancient Armenian books and Himayils (prayer scrolls),  and a good laugh at the thought of the prayer scrolls getting away from the priest and rolling around the floor of the ancient churches, the descendants of the survivors of the Armenian genocide retire to the benches along the side of the exhibition hall to read their own books, printed recently in English, to continue the literary tradition at the Library of Congress. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Takoma Park, Maryland's Trashy Art Contest

Takoma Park, Maryland: As she enjoys her ice cream cone from Takoma Park's 'Summer Delights', Enila proudly calls attention to her  city's recycling efforts and its resulting tree sculptures.
The Old Takoma Business Association has brightened up the summer in Takoma Park, Maryland, with The Art of Tree Public Art Exhibit and competition.  Below are some of the entries that Marash Girl passed as she walked through the city yesterday.  The tree sculpture immediately below sports light bulbs and water faucets for its leaves.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Mulberries along the Charles

There along the Charles River was a man with a sheet spread out on the ground under the mulberry tree, shaking the mulberry tree, freeing the tree of its white mulberries, mulberries which landed unharmed on the sheet, just like in the old days, in Wilbraham, before the tornado, under the white mulberry tree . . . Who was he and how did he learn of this ancient way of gathering mulberries . . . but then this was Watertown, Massachusetts, where many an Armenian immigrant settled, and many an Armenian live to this day . . .
[See more on Armenians and mulberry trees at http://marashgirl.blogspot.com/2011/06/here-we-go-round-mulberry-tree-tornado.html]

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Sand Sculptures of Yarmouth

Protected by fences (from overenthusiastic viewers) and umbrellas (from overenthusiastic clouds), the sculptures had lasted two weeks when Marash Girl took these photographs of Yarmouth's sand sculptures.

Commissioned by local businesses and local government agencies, 31 sand sculptures were carved out along the roads of Yarmouth.  Given the thousands of pounds of sand used in the creation of these sculptures, one would think that there would be cavernous gouges along the beaches from which the sand was taken, but the sand used for these sculptures was actually wet, compacted, man made sand.  As one sculptor put it, "We never know how much sand we're getting when we order 5 tons of sand (the amount it takes to make one of these sand sculptures) -- it depends on how wet the sand is!"  Checking the internet, Marash Girl learned the following:  "Manufactured Sand: Rock quarries crush rock into various sizes, and the smallest particles are called ‘fines’ and sold as Manufactured Sand, Man-made Sand, Crusher Fines, or Stone Dust. These particles range from 5 mm to fine dust, are sharp and will tightly compact if used alone. The mineral composition can range widely, and these particles are not the hard 'surviving' quartz grains of tumbling river action, so they may be softer and break down to dust sooner."

The sand sculptured lighthouse in front of Yarmouth's Subway.

A sand-sculptured clam peers at Marash Girl & Helene as they  pull up in front of Captain Parker's.

An elegant sand-sculptured fairy sits calmly in the shade along Yarmouth's main thoroughfare.
Frederico, a world-renowned sand sculptor, works to repair the damage to the sculpture he built in front of Salty's, the damage caused by over-enthusiastic admirers of his work.
"Some folks create and some folks destroy. . ."  commented Frederico.

Despite the damage caused to her person, she continues to smile pacifically at her admirers.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rum-Running at Smuggler's Beach, South Yarmouth, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

The sand sculptures at Cape Cod's Bass River Beach, known to locals as Smuggler's Beach, in South Yarmouth

Marash Girl was excited to visit the sand sculptures in South Yarmouth last week, after her first encounter with the sculptures at Smuggler's Beach (See Marash Girl's post about the fish that talked & walked.) Curious about the name Smuggler's Beach, Marash Girl made a phone call to the elegant hotel located at Smuggler's Beach.  "Could you tell me the origin of the name Smuggler's Beach, the name you use as part of your establishment?"  "No," answered the woman on the other end of the line.  "We just made it up."  "Thank you," said Marash Girl, as she decided to do a bit more research to find the real story behind the name.  And in an article in the publication CAPTURING CAPE COD HISTORY, she found that the site of that elegant hotel in South Yarmouth was once the location of the speakeasy "Casa Madrid".   The article went on to say that "Mayor Curley of Boston may or may not have been escorted out a window by his bodyguards during a 1932 raid by the state police."  But there is no question that rum-running occurred during prohibition (1920-1933) from across Bass River to Smuggler's Beach, at the mouth of the Bass River on Cape Cod in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Diamond Sue's Iced Herbal Tea

With the heat that New England has been experiencing (95 degrees fahrenheit every day, down to 85 at night, with high humidity), who wouldn't want a glass of iced tea. . . but then, who would want to light the burner on the stove to heat up the water (and the kitchen)?   Diamond Sue had the answer . . .

Put four individual sized bags of herbal tea (a combination of chamomile with orange, raspberry zinger, and peppermint would be a good start -- the raspberry gives it good color, the peppermint a bit of zing) into a 2 quart bottle (be sure you remove the tags from the teabags first), fill the bottle with fresh water and place it in the refrigerator overnight.  

Delicious, isn't it?  No heating up  the kitchen by boiling water.  A bit reminiscent of sun tea -- remember that fad?  But no caffeine, and no gimmicky sun tea bottle required!

Test the various combinations and see which combo you like best . . .  The taste treats are unending, and refreshingly free of calories!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Opticians3, Shawn Ferguson, and Ellis Island!

Wandering into Opticians3 in Newtonville Square yesterday, Marash Girl met Marty Glickman, the optician who had been wonderful in his service to her father Peter and her Uncle Paul.  When he realized to whom he was speaking, (Marash Girl, the daughter of story-tellers,) he fell into the story-telling mode, and talked about the origin of his name, Glickman, and his wife's name, Glickberg.  How his father, upon entering the United States, had changed his name from Glick to Glickman because he felt adding 'man' to the end of the name made it sound more American.  His wife's father, on the other hand, upon entering the United States, had changed his name from Glickberg to Glick as his wife's father felt that Glick sounded more American than Glickberg.  Just think, he said; my wife could have married me and never have had to change her name!

This charming optician went on to tell Marash Girl how a Jewish fellow named Shawn Ferguson came to have an Irish name.  Apparently, upon Shawn's first arrival in the United States, he had been sent back to the old country for having an eye disease, so when he returned to Ellis Island, hoping to be admitted to the USA this time, he decided to use a new name, for with his real name, the immigration officers at Ellis Island might think he still had the eye problem and would once again send him back to the 'old country'.  Thus, on Shawn's second arrival at Ellis Island, when the US officials asked him for his name, he was so flustered, that he answered in Yiddish,  "Shoyn fargesn!"  (I've forgotten!)  The immigration officials recorded on his immigration papers exactly what they had heard : Shawn Ferguson!

Oh, and yes, Marash Girl did order a very cool pair of prescription sunglasses which were ready the very next day!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The bird that wouldn't speak a peep

A baby Robin, Marash Boy said.  A robin? At the foot of our porch stairs?  It won't move. It won't peep.  I think the heat has gotten to it.  The second time in two weeks Marash Boy had seen this phenomenon on Maple Avenue. . .  Let's bring it some water; maybe it will revive.

It didn't.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Provincetown and the Bears, Part Two

The blessing of the bears.

 Bear Week in Provincetown:  July 7-15, 2012. All the shops in Provincetown welcomed the bears.

Even the dummies welcomed the bears,
Marash Girl, included!

The first gazelle located by Diamond Sue (see yesterday's blog) was a fake, but Diamond Sue persisted!

Diamond Sue finally located a gazelle, as a bear (above left) glared at the scene.

The Gazelle from Kansas answered all of Diamond Sue's personal questions!

Diamond Sue's Gazelle is the lead singer in the Provincetown show, NAKED BOYS SINGING! 
(See Diamond Sue's gazelle top row, center.)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Provincetown and the Bears, Part One

Diamond Sue and Marash Girl set out for Provincetown, their annual adventure, but this year it was during Bear Week -- not a week  celebrating the black bear that was heading back to Provincetown from  Western Massachusetts and was caught in a tree in Brookline . . . read on!
Stopping at her favorite patisserie (PB Boulangerie Bistro at 15 Lecount Hollow Road in South Wellfleet,Cape Cod, Massachusetts), posing next to her (borrowed) motorcycle, and obediently getting in line at the Bistro (the food is so good that there is ALWAYS a line there), Diamond Sue, after learning that the guys in front of her were tourists, commented, "You guys should definitely not miss Bear Week in Provincetown." One of the fellows quipped, "Hopefully there'll be a few gazelles among the bears!"
Fast forward an hour.  Diamond Sue and Marash Girl had just arrived in the public parking lot in Provincetown, and what should they spy but the two fellows they had met in Wellfleet, now on bikes, presumably looking for gazelles.  Diamond Sue screeched on the brakes, hopped out of her car, and headed directly over to our now friends calling, hey, we never got a picture of you at the bakery!  (Susan was never taught that hay is for horses and better for cows. . . or maybe she never said hey, and Marash Girl is just creating this scene. . . ")

 So take photos they did (see above), but that was long before they met up with the bears and the (one) gazelle!

To be continued . . .

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Brimfield late in the day on Friday the 13th

Brimfield Massachusetts is the site of the largest outdoor antique show in New England, with over 5000 dealers from all over the country.  The show occurs 3 times a year, in May, July, and September, and has been taking place along the farmlands bordering Route 20 (the Old Boston Post Road) since the 1950's, when Gordon Reid used to host auctions in one of the fields.  These auctions, popular in their own right, soon expanded (thanks in part to  Gordon Reid's son, an entrepreneur who began the move from one field into today's mile long, 3 times a year 7 day outdoor antiques fair.  The farmers along this route no longer farm their fields; the sprouting of tents in May, July and September is far more lucrative than any crop could be!  This year, Marash Girl and Karoun intended to visit (after a 3 year hiatus), if only to take photos, but the 2nd to the last day of this July's fair was hot, the dealer's tempers short (as were, in most likelihood, their sales), and the wares as well as the photo ops slim pickings.

A 'mid-century' glass vase turns out to have begun life as a glass of Coca-Cola for its owner, who here illustrates the way in which he drank a glassful of Coca-Cola  in Italy  thirty years ago from this very vase.  The vase was on his $5 table and hadn't sold yet.  It was 3:00 PM.
Usually impossible to locate, this porter in need waits for a customer in need, with no luck.  No wonder tempers were short on Friday the 13th.