Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

After the storm:  Newton Corner, 7 A.M., December 30, 2012, 12  minutes before sunrise



Photos by Marash Girl

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Silence for a Year

Nancy Kricorian's post "The bride has lost her tongue" (the post appeared yesterday on the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance Facebook page) brought to mind a piece of family history that Marash Girl's father Peter often related.

Kricorian's post suggests that the silence  imposed upon a new bride (the "gelin") was an Armenian village custom of questionable merit.  Marash Girl's Grandmother Yepros (Kurtgusian Bilezikian) would have disagreed.  Grandma Yepros often spoke of the silence imposed on a new bride (in the rather large and, for those times, sophisticated City of Marash) as a custom with considerable merit.

Armenian family lineage being patrilineal, the bride after marriage would go to live in her husband's house (or the home of her father-in-law, if he were still living), where her mother-in-law reigned.  
Grandma Yepros Kurtguzian Bilezikian with her son Peter, Marash 1913
According to Grandma Yepros (who herself had been a new bride in similar circumstances), the bride was required to be silent for her first married year (in the presence of her mother-in-law and others of the household, NOT when alone in the presence of her husband), a year during which the bride observed what was going on in the house, a year during which the bride learned to understand the person of her mother-in-law (first and foremost), a year during which the "gelin" learned the ways in which to respond without causing problems.  Although her mouth was not active, the bride's mind never ceased to absorb and understand her surroundings and the characters that peopled those surroundings.

[Marash Girl's father Peter often noted that in Marash, women reigned -- that is, women reigned in the home, as the men were out and about, working in their shops, traveling as merchants, or sitting in the coffee houses playing backgammon, kibbitzing, gambling and sipping Armenian coffee.]

Looking back with Western eyes, the custom of the silenced bride may seem cruel, but given the kinship structures of that time and place, a time and place where extended family lived in very close quarters with limited means, a young bride, unused to the behaviors in a new  household, could have caused havoc and hatred in her new abode but for that  imposed silence allowing for her keen observation of her new family.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sifting flour, the old-fashioned way!

Enila shows us how to sift flour the old-fashioned way, using the sifter she found hidden in the corner of this 1930's kitchen, and the bread flour that her great grandmother Azniv swore by!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Free kitten, anyone? The Equal Exchange Cafe

"Wishing for an espresso and a free kitten, we hoped our parents would leave us unattended at the Equal Exchange Cafe, but we knew they never would!"
The mission of the Equal Exchange Cafe in Boston's North End 
(226 Causeway Street,  Boston, MA 02114, telephone 617-372-8777) 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Iffar's First Recipe - A breakfast drink not to be beat!

If you want a real taste treat, try Iffar's first "recipe". For breakfast or any time of day, this healthy snack, half milk (in this case, 2% organic) and half Mango Tango 100% juice will make a drink somewhat akin to a smoothie for half the price and in half the time.  "Delicious, nutritious, makes you feel ambitious . . .!"
Iffar taste tests his first "recipe".  Delish!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Visiting Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond on Christmas Day

Site of Thoreau's Cabin discovered Nov. 11, 1945 by Roland Wells Robbins

Beneath this rock lies the chimney foundation of Thoreau's Cabin, 1845-1847.
"Go thou my incense upwards from this hearth."

Iffar selects a rock to add to the memory pile honoring Thoreau.

At Walden Pond, Concord, Massachusetts, Enila & Iffar give Henry David Thoreau a Merry Christmas hug.
Replica of Thoreau's one room cabin in background.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Spike your breakfast waffles with eggnog!

Here it is, Christmas Eve morning!  Want to treat your gang to something special for breakfast?  Try an easy waffle recipe, given Marash Girl by her niece Marina.  The eggnog addition is Marash Girl's contribution.  

Mix together

2 1/2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

In a separate bowl, beat

2 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tbsp. melted butter
And here's the spike!  1/2 cup all natural eggnog 
(If you want a stronger eggnog flavor, simply replace more of the milk with eggnog.)

Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and gently stir, leaving batter somewhat lumpy. 
[Or, if you're using a pre-made waffle mix, simply substitute eggnog for some of the liquid called for on the waffle mix package!]

Bake in your favorite waffle iron.

These waffles will have that hint of "je ne sais quoi" that will turn your Sunday breakfast truly festive!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Should Christians oppose gun control?

Recently, Marash Girl received an email entitled, "Even Jesus was opposed to gun control,"  an email citing Jesus commanding his disciples to "Bring a sword," in the New Testament, Book of Luke, the Last Supper story.  

"Poor Jesus.  Everyone takes what he says out of context.  What happened to turn the other cheek and all the other many cautions to love your enemies, be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove, and on and on and on.  Really!" was Marash Girl's reply email.

Her relatives countered, "Since you do not read the bible, as your 'bible', I would not expect any other thought process from you than the one fed to you as politically correct.  If there was anything Jesus the Messiah was not, it was being politically correct."  

Marash Girl's daughter Lorig brought the whole question to a close with the following:

"Actually, in Matthew 26: 52-54, before saying "the scriptures must be fullfilled", Jesus says, "Those who live by the sword die by the sword."  

"It's also worth noting that the one passage the author of the article was able to find in which Jesus says "bring a sword" appears in the Last Supper story  in only one of the Gospels (Luke), whereas the admonishment to Put Peter's sword back appears in three of the four (Mark says it was a by-stander who drew a sword and does not name Peter specifically).  One can pick and choose or one can try to understand the complete message.

"We all know the joke about the person looking for guidance who opens the bible and points to a verse and reads "and Judas hung himself" then opens and points to another which reads "go yea and do yea likewise" and concludes that's what he must do.  The Bible and Jesus's messages must be read in context.  The context is a Jesus who preached peace, forgiveness, building community, risking our lives (not killing others) for the Kingdom of God, and turning the other cheek.  It is a message we all need to pray for guidance to fully understand."

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Festive Tortellini Salad for Twelve

Looking for an easy meal to take to a Christmas Eve party?  Here's Marash Girl's!  It's not only beautiful to look at, but delicious! A quick trip to Costco, and you'll have all the ingredients you'll need.  [Can't guarantee how this dish will come out substituting other tortellini, artichoke hearts, or roasted red peppers.  One of the secrets here is that the artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers indicated in this recipes are in glass jars, and therefore do not pick up any flavor from the containers.]

Shopping List

Olivieri All Natural 7-Cheese Tortellini (frozen) (double pack)
Kirkland Artichoke Hearts (marinated in oil, garlic, vinegar & spices) in glass jar
Del Destino Fire Roasted Red Peppers in glass jar


Drain artichoke hearts, SAVING THE MARINADE (you will be using it later in the salad).
Drain red peppers and discard the liquid.
Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil, adding about a teaspoon of salt.  
While water is coming to a boil, slice artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers in half, or into bite sized pieces if you prefer.
When water has come to a boil, drop in frozen tortellini. 
When tortellini is al dente, drain off water. 
Add the artichoke hearts and red peppers that have been cut into pieces.
Add the MARINADE that you have drained from the artichoke hearts (AND SAVED) to the salad and gently (so as not to damage the tortellini) toss the ingredients together.
Taste and adjust seasoning by adding salt, pepper, perhaps a bit of wine vinegar, a bit of olive oil.

Serve warm or cold  (Marash Girl's family likes their tortellini salad warm or room temperature) accompanied by a green salad.

Or simply take this beautiful dish to your next party.  The guests will love you for it!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Back Yard Sculpture Garden, Newton Corner, Massachusetts

Sculptures by Obie SImonis. Photos taken on 12/20/12 by Marash Girl. Note the image of the photographer reflected in the sculpture above!  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Northern Mockingbird and H. H. RIchardson

The morning sun shines on the Northern Mocking Bird as he looks over his territory
 in Newton Corner, Massachusetts, 9 A.M., December 19, 2012. 
  In background, steeple of church built in 1886 on the corner of Centre Street and Church Street, Newton Corner, Massachusetts, designed by H.H. Richardson. 
Photo credit:  Marash Girl

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

WBUR's Reading of Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Boston's Parker House

Sasha Pfeiffer (WBUR's "All Things Considered") introduces last night's dramatic reading of A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Boston's Parker House.  The readers, seated, are (l. to r.) Bill Littlefield (WBUR's "Only a Game"), Delores Handy (WBUR), Bob Oakes (WBUR's "Morning Edition"), Robin Young (WBUR's "Here & Now"), and Tom Ashbrook (WBUR's "On Point").
Bill Littlefield begins the reading by introducing Scrooge.

Bob Oakes adjusts his bow tie before reading of
the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Robin Young reads of the Ghost of Christmas Present

Tom Ashbrook concludes with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
Celebrating the 10th anniversary of a dramatic reading of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" performed by WBUR personalities Bill Littlefield (WBUR's "Only a Game"), Dolores Handy (WBUR), Bob Oakes (WBUR's "Morning Edition"), Robin Young (WBUR's "Here & Now"), and Tom Ashbrook (WBUR's On Point),  a crowd of over 600 gathered yesterday in the Rooftop Ballroom of Boston's Parker House.  The evening, sponsored by WBUR, benefitted Rosie's Place,  "a sanctuary for poor and homeless women which accepts no government funds, and relies on committed volunteers and private supporters to accomplish its effective and innovate work". 
WBUR personalities Bill Littlefield, Delores Handy, Bob Oakes, Robin Young, and Tom Ashbrook contributed their time and talents to this dramatic reading of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, first recited by Charles Dickens himself for the Saturday CLub at the Parker House in the mid 1800's.  

All proceeds to benefit Rosie's Place.

Photos by Marash Girl

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Durumlu Marul -- Children in the Streets of Marash

Writing about the cheese and bread "durums' in yesterday's post (see brought to mind the following.

There was a day when Marash Girl heard the word "marul", or "salata" or lettuce, or salad, and thought of only one thing:  iceberg lettuce.  There was no other kind, was there? Only as an adult did she realize that there were other lettuce choices -- not just big round crunchy heads of iceberg lettuce.  (Had the family favorite been iceberg lettuce, or had the market changed?)  Suddenly there were all kinds of lettuces available at the Star Market in Newtonville, and romaine lettuce became a favorite of the family.  With romaine lettuce, came one of Grandpa Peter's favorite stories -- the tale of 8 year old brother Paul walking through the streets of Marash in the early 1900's, carrying a tray of young romaine lettuces above his head, selling to the Turkish women in their neighborhood (the women were not allowed to buy from adult men, and thus Paul, or Boghos, as he was known then, had a captive market). "Durumlu marul," Boghos would call out; "durumlu marul"!

N.B. Search as she might for the meaning of "durum" (in this case meaning rolled or oblong roll-like as in a wrap or romaine lettuce), Marash Girl found no official translation.  If you know of one, please make note in the comments below.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Queso Blanco, Armenian Style

Before the advent of fried mozzarella sticks, there was Armenian Cheese, the kind the ladies from Marash made at home from raw, unpasteurized whole milk, cut up into blocks and stored in brine, to last all winter.  The Armenian mother, grandmother, aunt, or sister, would remove the cheese from the brine, now rock solid from its brine bath, rinse it off, slice it up, and pour boiling water over it.  The cheese would suddenly become wonderfully soft.  Menzmama would make a "Durum" for her Marash Boy by rolling up her wonderfully warm home made cheese in a slice of her freshly home-baked bread.  

Although those days are gone for most of us, the possibility of eating soft, warm cheese, NOT FRIED, is still with us, and the closest thing to those wonderful warm home-made cheese sticks can be made in our kitchens in 
but a few minutes.

Start with Queso Blanco (available in double packs at Costco).  Rinse it; slice it into lengths approximately 1/2 inch by 2 inches (the size of a finger), cover with water, and put in the microwave for a minute. Or, if you prefer, pour boiling water over the cheese and let sit for a minute or two.  Pour off the water, and enjoy that wonderfully soft cheese for breakfast just as it is, in a wrap, or simply rolled up in a slice of soft whole wheat bread.  It can't be beat!

A quick and easy Armenian breakfast treat -- a treat for any time of the day!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Four Mrs. Hemingways

Following a dramatic first reading of Robert Pushcar's new play, The Four Mrs. Hemingways, ( r.) Judy Braha, (Boston University Professor of Theater, Director of Joyce Van Dyke's play, Deported),  Robert Pushcar (playwright, The Four Mrs Hemingways), Paul T Boghosian, (film and theater producer, According to TipTanya and Nancy - the rock opera, The Four Mrs. HemingwaysDr. Miss Garland), and Dick Flavin, (playwright, author of According to Tip), pose for Marash Girl's camera at Boston University.
Marash Girl was honored to be among the chosen few to experience the play The Four Mrs. Hemingways , (albeit a dramatic reading) read aloud for the very first time.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

On Church Street, celebrating Christmas?

Front porch of home on Church Street in Newton Corner, Massachusetts, December 2012

This newly assembled "Christmas decoration" on a front porch in Newton Corner gave Marash Girl and Marash Boy pause, as they walked to the YMCA track yesterday.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Z's 'll get you: Fundraising for WBUR

Having volunteered to take pledges via telephone for the WBUR December fund drive, Marash Girl had the opportunity to speak with a gentleman whose name contained b's and z's and n's.  She started chuckling and told the caller that his name reminded her of the name she had carried in her youth.  "The z's will always get them, right?"  He started laughing.  "Let me tell you a story," she said as she remembered an incident that occurred during her sophomore year of high school.

One evening, Marash Girl was riding in a car with a group of high school friends along Washington Street, the "main drag" in Newtonville,  when a policeman motioned for the car to pull over to the side of the road. As he directed his flashlight into the faces of the assembled teenagers, the officer demanded, "OKAY, WHAT ARE YOUR NAMES?"
". . . Golub . . . " " . . . Bickum . . . "  But when Marash Girl carefully pronounced, "Bilezikian", the officer, now angered, replied, "Don't wise off to me, girl.  What's your real name?"

Laughing as he ended the phone conversation, the donor admitted, "This is the most fun I've ever had giving my money away!"

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Another Scarf for Peace

Robin Young, host of WBUR's Here and Now (left) sports "Another Scarf for Peace",
this one, a specially designed double helix scarf made of Peruvian wool.
(The creator of the scarf, WBUR volunteer B.C., on right.}
Photo courtesy of Connie, another WBUR volunteer

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Morning Humor at WBUR

Early this morning, at 6 :05 AM to be exact, Marash Girl was chatting with Zack, supervisor of volunteers for the WBUR fundraiser.  "Do you know what I saw the other day?", Marash Girl said, laughing.  "I saw a really discouraging calendar, out there for all to see, entitled, "100 Places To Go Before You Die".  Without blinking an eye, Zack answered, "I would have bought it had it been entitled, '100 Places to Go After you Die'!"  Julie, listening in, added, "Or a happier title, '1,000 Places To Go Before You Die'!"

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Humor in the Bike Lane

Visiting Blogger, biker Barley Jim writes, "Outside of the library the other day, I met a cute, nose ringed young teacher on a very nice bike that she had built herself.  Her bike had been stolen and she rebuilt it with found parts -- she first found the aluminum Treck 7000 frame and then the handle bars.  She told me that once when she was explaining to her students that a tomato was a fruit, one very bright girl popped up asking, " Then is ketchup a smoothie?"

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Secret of Success

Just work hard and you'll get ahead.  That's the American dream. . . But as we all know, especially in this economy, things don't always work out that way.

Yesterday, Marash Girl was chatting with Tatoul about this very subject.

"You know what your father used to say," Tatoul reminded Marash Girl.

"What was that?" asked Marash Girl.

"If you want to get ahead in this world, you have to be born with one!"

Sunday, December 9, 2012

How do YOU feel?

Yesterday, while I was standing in line, an old fellow ambled in and Joe (the postmaster) asked, "How do you feel?"  And the old fellow sighed and said, "Oh, I don't know.  Okay, I guess."

Marash Girl couldn't resist.

"When my father Peter was in his 90's (of course I know you're much younger) and folks asked him, "How do you feel?", he always answered, "With my fingers! How do YOU feel?"

The old fellow replied, "I'm almost in my 90's!"

Marash Girl asked him, "So how do you feel?"

"With my fingers," he answered with a grin and a chuckle.  "How do YOU feel?"

As happens sometimes, the old teach the young teach the old. . . 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pot Roast For Supper

Casting about for what to cook for supper?  If you have a large cast : ) iron pot, and time for a  quick trip to the suppermarket (typo deliberate), your problem is solved.  Solved, that is, if you begin preparing supper at lunch time.  Here's what to do.

Get out your biggest cast iron pot (LeCreuset or similar)  -- Marash Girl has LeCreuset pots in her favorite color, the traditional orange, though possibly any color would work : ) -- and fill that pot.  Yep, you're going to fill it to the brim, so get ready.  (Of course, before filling the pot, you're going to wash all ingredients first in clean, cool water, including the meat!)

1)  A large pot roast goes into the pot first.
2)  Over the pot roast, peeled garlic, (if you have time, make slits in the pot roast and place the peeled garlic into the slits in the pot roast) or if no time and you have it, toss in 1/4 cup bottled ready to use chopped garlic (salt-free, no oils, NO PRESERVATIVES)  
3)  Now it's a free for all -- toss in unpeeled potatoes, peeled onions, peeled carrots, peeled turnips (if you have them), celery with leaves, and tomatoes.  As after the frost is the time of year when fresh tomatoes are not plentiful (or simply not delicious), open up a can or two of chopped or peeled whole tomatoes (preservative free, of course) or your own home canned tomatoes, and toss them over the lot in the pot.
4)  Cover the pot with its cover : ) and place the covered pot in the center of the oven.
5)  Roast for 3 to 5 hours at 275 degrees fahrenheit.
6)  Get on the phone and call all your friends over to join you for supper!

Marash Girl did not add any salt, pepper, red pepper, or herbs, and the pot roast was delicious as it stood, but try your hand with your favorite combination of spices and herbs and share the secret in the comments below!  As you may have heard, pot roast is even better the next day.  Let us all know how yours comes out!

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Celtic Christmas

When Peter was a young man, the Armenians all called him "Irrrrish" (with a heavily pronounced rolled "R").  Why was that?  Well, for one thing, he was blonde with blue eyes and light skin in a sea of Armenians with dark hair, dark eyes, and dark skin. (He looked Irish!)  For another, he hung out in the "odar" community, the non-Armenian, American community.  For another, as a young boy recently arrived in this country, America meant Brighton, where he grew up in the streets with the Irish boys, where he learned their ways.  Folks were always warning his mother that she should be careful, for one day he would marry (pronounced with an Armenian accent, the word sounded like "merry" but with a heavily rolled "r" and intoned with threat) an Irrrish! (Don't forget to roll that rrr!)  

It never happened.  He married Armenian Jennie with the light brown hair (and light brown eyes and very white skin) and they lived happily ever after.  

All of this as a preface to Marash Girl's telling you about a Celtic Christmas, performed at Bentley University this past Wednesday evening.  In A Celtic Christmas, Tomáseen Foley's gentle Irish brogue brought us back to a two room cottage in the little village of Teampall an Ghleanntáin (meaning "church of the little glen"),   a village in West County Limerick, Ireland.   With warmth and humor,  he remembered the days growing up in that little village, and related those memories, especially the advice and warnings of his grandmother.  (Such expressions  as "the only eye in the spud" referring to an only child, and her recommendation to "say nothing and keep saying it", with her ultimate advice:  "We may as well enjoy ourselves; we'll be dead long enough.")  Foley regaled the audience with memories of Christmas Eve in Teampall an Ghleanntain: cleaning the house in hopes that the Holy Family, if arrived, would feel welcome; awaiting the arrival of the postman with the yearly package from America (the villagers knew that in America, Christmas was 365 days a year), a package that would contain jackets, shirts and shoes for all the family (almost every cottage in the village received a package) and an envelope of American dollar bills.  They sang and danced, 
drank and ate, played the tin whistle, steel string guitar, fiddle, accordion, the  uilleann pipes [píobaí uilleann (literally, "pipes of the elbow", the name , from the method of inflation, the national bagpipe of Ireland.]  Foley explains that because the floors were often dirt floors, and thus uneven, the family would take the wooden door off of its hinges and lay it across the floor, iron hinges still attached, for the dancers to dance on with their hobnailed boots, the iron door hinges contributing to the rhythm of the dance.

"This year, Tomáseen Foley's A Celtic Christmas features Marcus Donnelly from Co. Galway, one of the most exhilarating, truly creative Irish dancers performing today. Internationally acclaimed master of the steel-string guitar William Coulter joins in, along with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Marianne Knight from Co. Mayo (and world-champion level Irish dancer), and Brian Bigley on uilleann pipes, whistles and flute (also a world-champion level Irish dancer)."

The audience joined the performers in a rendition of "Silent Night", after which the night was not silent but ringing with   applause, whistles and shouts of appreciation.

Filled with joy (as most were) at the end of the performance, and rising from the table to leave the room, Marash Girl turned around and was addressed by a youngish man who looked familiar, although Marash Girl did not know him.  He was effusive.  "I'm Irish, I am!  I'm Irish!  The show made me Irish."  "A powerful performance," Marash Girl answered, similarly inspired.  "Well, are you really Irish?" Marash Girl asked.  "No, I'm Armenian," he answered.  "Armenian?"  Marash Girl was amazed.  "Me, too! But Tomaseen has made us Irish for this one evening; as Irish as we are Armenian!"

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Rain, Snow, and the Native Americans of Massachusetts

"What are you putting up there?" Marash Girl asked the fellow grasping the 6 foot high wooden poles painted yellow at the top, as he hammered one into the corner of the parking lot at Whole Foods.  "That's not for snow, is it?"   "It is, indeed," the fellow answered.  "Snow poles?  already? No!  I don't want to think about snow!"  The fellow grinned and continued hammering the poles in around the edge of the parking lot.  Marash Girl started wondering if Santa put up snow poles at the northernmost tip of our slightly unrounded world. . . As she walked away, she started laughing,  remembering a joke that Marash Boy had told her years ago: '"It looks like we're going to have lots of snow this winter," intoned a Native American New Englander to a tourist on Cape Cod.  "And how is it that you know that?" asked the tourist, impressed.  "Look around you," said the Native American New Englander, "and you'll see all the snow fences the white man has put up!"'

That memory triggered the memory of a July day in Brimfield, Massachusetts, when Marash Boy and Marash Girl had gone to visit the Brimfield Fair.  Looking to park in a private, non-commercial parking lot (i.e., in somebody's back yard), Marash Boy drove North on one of the side streets, following the arrows on a home-made sign.  He pulled into the arrowed driveway and was motioned to the back yard by the owner of the house; paying the required $5, Marash Boy looked up when he felt a brief but insistent wind.  "It'll be raining in about 10 minutes," he said to the owners.  Surprised, they asked, "Are you Native American?"  "In a way," he answered; "I grew up summering on the top of Wilbraham Mountain; I know what that puff of wind means."  "Oh! We're Native Americans!" replied the Brimfield residents.  "We didn't realize anyone other than we Natives knew about that puff of wind.  You're the first person we've met that does! Do you know about this?"  They picked up a bird feather from the ground.  "Whenever we find a bird's feather on the ground, we bring it into our home, place it in a container, and pray for the health of an ailing member of the family.  It works."  From that day forward, on the green monster (the antique buffet painted green by Kenar and Arax in the 1930's) in the cabin that sat on the top of Wilbraham Mountain, there stood small antique bottles filled with bird feathers representing the good health of all the folks Marash Girl and Marash Boy loved.  

Oh. . . and yes, 10 minutes later, on that day in Brimfield, Massachusetts? It started raining. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Slippery Slippers?

Recently Marash Girl treated herself to a brand new pair of slippers.  Walking around the house barefoot is fine in the summer and fall, but by the time the early morning temperature of the floor hits 50 degrees, feet bottoms long for a bit of comfort and warmth.  The problem, however, is that slippers these days are either not warm (the fancy, flimsy type) or not fun (the ugly warm type).   Waiting for Kenar's bus to arrive in Framingham yesterday -- (the Peter Pan Bus took two hours to arrive from Downtown Springfield to Framingham Shopper's World!  A true local!) -- Marash Girl wandered around and guess what she saw hanging on the wall in the farthest corner of Marashall's (a deliberate typo!) -- the perfect pair of slippers -- cozy, not too ugly, and warm!  (She has them on right now, and the slippers are, yes, true to their promise -- cozy and toasty warm!)

Yesterday, announcing to her daughter the news of the new slippers, her daughter asked, "But do they have rubber soles?"  Whoops -- a little detail Marash Girl had waived -- but the heavens were good to Marash Girl, and peering at the soles of her new slippers, Marash Girl announced, "No, the slippers don't have rubber soles, but they're not slippery either; the slippers have the latest in comfy, non-slip soles."  Non-slip slippers.  Now how could Marash Girl go from this discussion of slippers to a discussion of the politicians of the day . . . She'll let her readers take over . . . she's walking back to bed wearing her new slippers!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Remembering Filene's Basement

There was a day when everybody who was anybody did their Christmas shopping all year long in Boston's Filene's Basement.  "The oldest off-price retailer in the United States, Filene's Basement focused on high-end goods and was known for its distinctive, low-technology automatic markdown system." [Wikipedia]

Recently, waiting in line for Chestnut Hill's Apple Store to open brought to mind the long morning lines at the top of the steep narrow cement stairway leading down to Boston's legendary Filene's Basement, housed in, yes, the basement of Boston's elegant Filene's Department Store.  Folks would travel thousands of miles or simply walk over Beacon Hill, less than one mile away, for this unequalled shopping experience  -- the first stop for folks arriving from London, the last stop for folks leaving for Paris -- and the regular visit for those locals who knew the secret of bargain hunting, long before bargain hunting and sales became literally "a dime a dozen".

There were always tales, true tales and tall, about the happenings in Filene's Basement.  Men would go to the Basement during their lunch hour, just to watch the women (also on their lunch hour) stripping to try on the clothes that they found for prices not to be found elsewhere!  Folks would buy their wedding dresses there, and, rumor has it, return the dresses after the wedding.  (As long as you returned the tags, and the clothes appeared unscathed, returns were accepted.)  There was even a tale of a woman who had purchased a wedding dress for her daughter's open casket, and returned it after the "viewing" at the Funeral Home!

Everyone who shopped the Basement had special techniques. The Basement's automatic markdowns attracted bargain enthusiasts, ever-increasing in numbers.  According to an article in the New York Times in 1982, "... every article is marked with a tag showing the price and the date the article was first put on sale. Twelve days later, if it has not been sold, it is reduced by 25 percent. Six selling days later, it is cut by 50 percent and after an additional six days, it is offered at 75 percent off the original price. After six more days — or a total of 30 — if it is not sold, it is given to charity."  Marash Girl knew a man who worked as a driver at the Massachusetts State House; he had the time to visit the Basement daily and he did just that.  He described his "system" to her one day:  he would locate a suit that he wanted to buy but couldn't afford even at its marked down price, move the suit from its appropriately sized rack to an inappropriate rack, and do this daily (as the workers would daily replace the suit to its appropriate rack), daily until the item was marked down to its lowest markdown; before it was given away to charity, he would find where he had hidden it, and purchase it for 25% of the original Basement price (which was already 50 to 75% off of the retail price).  True story!

Seamstresses would purchase clothing on the markdown rack, clothing that had been damaged or dirtied in the daily struggle for bargains (serious physical tug-of-wars), clean and repair the  clothing until it was "as good as new", and sell the designer pieces in their high end boutiques for half of the original price, still making a huge profit.

Dowagers from Beacon Hill would sort through tables mounded high with designer labeled skirts, marked, for that day only, 5 for $10!

The experience was one to remember for a lifetime, and now, sad to say,  lives on only in memory, for Filene's Basement, as it was in the heart of Boston's Washington Street, is no longer.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Celebrating Sourp Hagop

Union of Marash Armenians, Watertown, celebrating Sourp Hagop
following mass upstairs at Holy Cross Armenian Catholic Church, Belmont, Massachusetts

Was it the place?  Was it the languages?  Was it the piano? Was it the Khachaturian? Marash Girl found herself in a church basement, an Armenian church basement, an Armenian church basement in Belmont, Massachusetts, an Armenian church basement filled with the languages of her childhood, an Armenian church basement filled with Marashtsis happy to come together once again to celebrate life, [and yesterday, to celebrate the life of Sourp Hagop, who, it turns out, according to the priest from North Andover, was not Armenian but was Assyrian . . . more on that later!]  And, contributing to the festivities,  a young pianist playing an elaborate piece by Aram Khachaturian on the piano.  The moment the introduction was over, and the pianist began playing, the two "Marash Boys" sitting at the table, cousins, descendants of survivors from Marash, friends who hadn't seen each other for over a year,  began conversing once again.

The competition between their conversation and the piano caused Marash Girl to laugh (almost out loud), as the moment took Marash Girl back to her 10th year of life, when her mother and father requested that she play the piano for the gathering of Marashtsis that Saturday evening.  Marash Girl demurred, but her parents insisted.  Thus it was that she found herself in a church basement, an Armenian church basement, an Armenian church basement in Watertown, Massachusetts, an Armenian church basement filled with conversations in Armenian, Turkish, French and English, an Armenian church basement filled with Marashtsis coming together once again to celebrate life.  Marash Girl's moment of glory had arrived.  The Master of Ceremonies, finally quieting the celebration, announced that Marash Girl would be playing a piano selection for the assembled.  Everyone applauded.  The room became silent.  Young Marash Girl approached the piano, sat down and adjusted the bench, listened for a moment to the silence, and began.  She played the first few notes of her piece on the old upright piano, and then, as if in relief, the audience en masse began chattering once again, silencing only long enough to applaud when the the notes ended and Marash Girl took her bow.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


The promise of spring in the tangle of fall -  along the Charles River, Newton, Massachusetts

Saturday, December 1, 2012

December is the Cruelest Month

It was a cold day in Springfield, Massachusetts, early in December.   Marash Boy was five years old. He was walking to the grocery store with his mother Azniv (Medz Mama, as her grandchildren know her) when,  in the window of the resale shop set up next to Jimmy's grocery store, he spied a little red car with pedals, perfect for a five year old.  "Look at that car!" he said to his mother.  "Wouldn't it be wonderful if I could have a car like that?"  His mother didn't answer him.  Two weeks later, he accompanied his mother to Jimmy's, the neighborhood grocery store; he was excited to see the red car with pedals, but when they got to Jimmy's, there was nothing in the window of the resale shop next door.  Swallowing his disappointment, he dutifully followed his mother into the grocery store and helped her gather the groceries they needed for that week.

Christmas Day arrived.  Marash Boy came down the hall from his bedroom (he shared his bedroom with his grandmother) and into the living room, and there, in front of the Christmas Tree sat the very car he had seen in the window of the resale shop.  The red car with pedals.  He was joyous.  He rode that little car up and down the hallway (which ran the length of the house) for two days, stopping only long enough to eat his meals.

On the third day, Marash Boy went into the living room looking for his little red pedal car. He looked everywhere in the house, on the back porch, on the front porch.  The little red car was nowhere to be found.

That next week, he walked to the grocery store with his mother when,  passing the window of the resale shop, he spied the little red car with pedals, perfect for a five year old. 

December is the cruelest month.