June 15 In 2 hours, Turks, Azerbaijanis, Georgians, and Armenians, will simultaneously sit down and, for 24 hours, write stories and draw comics according to an on-the-spot assignment. (Armenia’s First 24 Hour Comics Event ) They must improvise, they must imagine, they must stay awake. Thank you, actual art (project organizer); thank you Democracy Project of the US Embassy (funded the project); thank you, Dana (project doula). The center of the action is Gyumri, still hollowed out from the earthquake, but with a vibrant art school. Many artists will check in remotely from their home countries via internet. Together they will suffer sleep deprivation, revel in creativity, and meet a deadline.
Guitar–Meet Me in the Rain (in 10)
Since I learned that the physiological necessity of sleep concerns neural waste removal, I have become something of a nag to my spouse about adequate sleep. “You can’t just keep piling up those dishes!” I tell her, feeling the poetic justice. So you’re a dolphin, or a swift, and need to keep moving? All right then, sleep half your brain at a time. But now this: 24 hour comics. Let the dishes pile for a while. The Caucasus needs its artists to meet, to push its envelopes.
Transport in metch (on the bus) A fellow passenger hands me her kopeks (coins) to give to the driver, as I’m sitting nearest to him. “Me-hat?” (one fare?) asks the driver. Yerek hat (3) she answers. I pass back the change, kopek bucket-line. Eyebrows raise a quarter-second, a fraction of surprise. I’m an odar, not the usual model for this little role.
Sometimes I think Armenia is even more ethnically homogeneous than Vermont. Now, in June, Americans with ostentatious backpacks increasingly punctuate the sidewalks, bickering over their blackberry vodka, explaining crosswalk rules to each other. I see it-their faces may look Armenian, but they aren’t. But hold on here–condescension towards my own compatriots? Reflexive xenophobia by proxy? Anyhow, what’s an Armenian face? Sometimes it is dark as cocoa, sometimes freckled and fair. These people are as diverse as Argentineans. Will the real Armenian please stand up? All rise.
Bari Ghoompe Two dance groups jammed over at the history library last night. For the closing photo, I crouch in the back row. It’s the young man next to me–he doesn’t want me to dwarf him. Having struggled in vain to interpolate some of his taller brethren between us, he’s up on his toes. I can bend.
With only a week left, I am opting for taxis, whisking around the city from rim to rim, fitting in a few more meetings, catching my Oud lesson. Aram and I do this mostly in Armenian. Since we both strive to speak in music, linguistic limitations have minimal impact. Do you use do-re-mi-fa? Che (nope). Do you read music? Eye-oh! (yes). Handipenk. We meet.
Mikhail Zlatkovsky, cartoon