New Vibrations

As a newer, if temporary, citizen of Armenia, I now clean my windows with Barf. And so would you, seeing it is clear, and blue, and issues reassuringly in a cleansing spray once you squeeze the toggle. A truly Windex-ical odor emanates. image
I think Shakespeare was wrong when he said “a bottle of Windex by any other name would smell …” … like this. For when I Barf my windows, packaging counts, and the rest of my brain bullies my visual cortex, telling it to check for streaks of partially-digested cellulose and … I won’t go there. It would be rude to divert your phoneme-deciphering cortex towards your own Barf-associations! But when you come to Armenia, my Barf is your Barf!

This is a lexical universe with few parallels. By accident, some words bear a sympathetic resonance. The mellifluous yoga teacher, says “shad lav” (how could you say very good any better than that?) in her mellifluous tones. After a long, muscle-searing routine she says “park-ek.” We all go prone. I think “yes, park it.” In this way a growing posse of words have run their semantic wagons down my cerebral tracks often enough for me to wave at the driver as they pass by–at medical interviews, on the sidewalk, at dance class, broadcasts, and as I strain to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations on the pretext of increasing my cultural competence. Here, I want all the neuro-plasticity I can get. And not only the phonemes, but even the figures that represent them, that I would use to understand Armenia, its doctors, and families, the relationships between them, are taking ahold of my synapses. This is a semaphore rooted in a very different soil.

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I’ve heard of “smart homes,” and “smart buildings,” but until I moved to Parpetsy Street, I never considered having a conversation with one. Our top floor apartment speaks to us in a litany of tones that suggest a mysterious sophistication; Dana has learned to respond to our apartment’s various phonemes, uttered from the pipes that are its circulatory and digestive system. With circadian regularity, somewhere between 10 and 11PM, our little building shudders its palate like it was clearing its throat, then enters into soaring hoots like a baby humpback. Most of its sentences wrap up with a plaintive staccato of stuttering valves. Dana has a way with languages: she goes and turns the faucet on, then off again … quiet. We & the building thus re-gain mutual acceptance. Such is our marriage to our Yerevantsi home.

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Could you repeat that please?

There was a joke around Dana’s house–the platoon got to know each other’s jokes so well, that each joke had a number. Just say “73” and everyone would laugh. Once, some poor schmuck said “37,” and couldn’t get a laugh. “Whatsamatter?” he whined. “You didn’t tell it right!” I still chuckle at that joke, which is the point: we can’t (most of us) tickle ourselves, because our brains automatically anticipate our intention, and attenuate the self-directed tickle, the “joke” we would tell ourselves (cynical little hypothesizing neurons!). Yet we can get around those little sensory attenuators using phonemes, and crack ourselves up with the same joke over & over again. At least I can. You still there?

bye for now,
and sides’chun,
Peter

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