I don't miss living near Hollywood. Not during weeks like this.|
on this week's site will give you the details of why being a journalist in Armenia
is as often a dream as a nightmare.
You can't make this stuff up. Well,
actually, speaking of Hollywood, some people do and get paid considerably more
than journalists for doing so.
Here, though, it's real. No actors, no props.
People do try this at home . . .
Episode I: Read Zhanna Alexanyan's
story about a court session here and tell me if "The Sopranos" will
ever seem as real again.
In court this week, a father of four rather calmly
spoke of having been approached to perform a contract killing. And like trying
to buy a carpet at the vernisage, defendant John Harutyunyan, aka "Tony Sopranian"
turned solicitation to commit murder into "Let's Make a Deal".
to his own testimony, Harutyunyan apparently had no qualms about whacking somebody
he'd never met, but, good Armenian that he is, was compelled to argue over price.
conversation hardly needs to be Hollywood-ed up, but it went something like this:
conspirator: "We want you to kill this journalist, see. The job's good for
Tony Sopranian: "I got no problem wid' dat, but I need
a 100 . . ."
And so it went back and forth till the killer allegedly
accepted the contract for $75,000. In the end he got $19,000 and a potential life
Episode II: In Gayane Mkrtchyan's story you'll learn that
people from outside Armenia are coming here for nose jobs that cost 10 times less
than in many countries.
Maybe it's not emphasized in the story, but there's
an underlying irony that brightened my day while reading that story. Does it seem
just a little odd that somebody would come to a country of people whose identifying
features include, shall we say "statuesque" noses, to pay to have theirs
Episode III: This is my favorite. Julia Hakobyan reports
that it's now against the law in Yerevan to let the public know that you're in
the coffin or burial wreath business.
On what used to be known as "Coffin"
Street, merchants have been forced to remove casket lids from outside their shops;
to take down any sign advertising what they sell; and to shut their doors and
put up blinds so that passersby can't see anything funereal inside.
give this some context:
In this country when somebody dies, the body is
placed in an uncovered coffin, put on a group of men's shoulders and hauled through
the streets for everyone to see, whether he or she wants to see the deceased or
But let the public see a coffin lid outside a place of business? Oh
no, says the City Council, citing concerns that such a sight is depressing.
another Hollywood-eat-your-heart-element to that story:
Some in the coffin
business are hinting that behind the crackdown is a scheme by certain undesirables
to gain control of the funeral industry, the way they've taken over others, such
as alcohol and petrol.
Tell me this: How far down the mafia ladder would
a toughguy have to be to get the call from Godfather saying "Yo, Armen jan,
we need a good man to protect our interest in the funeral industry . . ."
You know what I like most about giving readers these stories? They reveal
a place that is real - a place that often doesn't make sense, and just as often
makes more "evolved" places seem primitive. As I've said before, this
is not your grandfather's Armenia.
To idealize Armenia is to diminish it.
To dismiss it because it isn't perfect is to diminish yourself.
It is neither
Paradise nor Hell. Just like any other real place. Except Hollywood.