I flew over and through Europe without inwardly casting a single aspersive stereotype on these nice people. With a 10 hour stop in Vienna, I took comfort from the incisive air at the Music Museum. It’s true I did (silently) sneer at the 8th grader interactives, though I did learn, if I can believe the museum, that my hearing cuts out at ~12’500 Hertz (Heinrich happened to be German). Over at the massive Kunsthistoriches museum, I peered for a few hours at the endless gilt-framed images of satyrs, saints, breasts, and swords rising up the 40 foot walls, and appreciated the egg-white patina on an impossible bunch of Flowers (in your dreams, Durer).
Although the train ticket lady failed to point out that there are TWO train lines to the city ( I had to pay twice), and even though the museum ticket guy forgot to give me the barcode stub that gets you through the seeing-eye entry gate, I didn’t take their inattentiveness as Austrian disdain, as I once might have, but more as a kind of cultural shyness too easily mistaken as carelessness.
You know how traveling can bring that too-useful mental faculty of picture-completion right into the footlights. For example, your brain trips over itself to form an impression of what Austrians are like from 8 hours in Vienna. “Ah,” the brain says, “behold the Austrian, 1 part snippy hotelier, one part brawny museum guard of nerdly bearing, and one part Euro-groover wanna-be with cigarette!” I just tell my brain to shut up when it pulls that kind of stuff. I’m starting to get a grip on my inner shoddy puppet-maker.
As of this first posting, I’ve passed several milestones of Yerevantsi citizenship: a second, 2-hour Armenian lesson with the wonderful Anahid (everbody is a “the” in this language–these folks are the definite article). Then, to the supermarket for some chocolate cookies, some chocolate milk, and a few other items (Dana hopped over to France my first week here for an International Comix Convention, which I consider to be pretty decent competition). So the cash register lady says, “do you have forty drams?”
I like how the folks in the stores love to know to address me in english before I have said anything, even though I wear quite a fitting uniform for the streets of Yerevan: blue jeans, black loafers, black nylon jacket, and I’m a little bald (at least in my dreams). (When she was explaining Armenians to me, Dana used to say that all the men are either bald or have curly hair, which like many true things, is about 70% true). It’s OK if I fit their stereotype of an english-speaking person, I just want to know what the tell is. Is it my height, my facial bones, or the way I wander the store, studying everything as though I was a near-sighted entomologist?
Then, guitar-shopping, to replace the one I didn’t bring on the plane. (My oud fit nice & snug on the overhead rack, and I didn’t even have to execute my “indignant musician” scene with the cabin crew.) (Anyway, it needs some work) The people at Forte Music allow me to come, & strum, and go. I thank them for their patience: “Shnoor hagalyum tzer hamberatyunes.” I’ll have to check that with Anahid, but I said it with a smile, and they didn’t flinch. After a few visits to their nice store I have settled on a guitar–not even the most expensive one, which makes me feel very discerning.
But that’s not all- I went to the phone fixer, David, at “i-fix,” (Building #10, Tumanyan; addresses go by building–you find the building, after that you’re on your own), one of the hundreds of little computer stores of Yerevan, only this one is right next to the big authorized Apple retailer (Building #8, Tumanyan, which also contains some government offices). For a mere 10,000 Armenian drams ($25), David delivered my beloved iphone from jail, un-locking it without disturbing a bit of its memory! I have escaped from the digital grip of the multi-nationals (er, AT&T), hidden in the south Caucasus! Then, Ermine, the Viva Cell lady on North Street, had me sign a contract that I COULDN’T READ IF I TRIED (this is a kind of obverse milestone), and sold me a Sim-card which fits nicely into the hitherto un-explored marsupial pouch of my iphone, so I can call Aram, and Offik, and Biayna, and Anahid, and Seda, and Raffi, and all the other friends I’m going to make!
Sidesuchun for now (that’s “bye for now!”)!