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 January 24, 2003 
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Outside Eye: A non-Armenian's view of life in his adopted home


The other night I'm at this "Mexican" restaurant called Cactus.

It's actually a chain out of Moscow and this one started out managed by a guy from Bulgaria and the cook is Armenian, so you make the judgment on the authenticity. But the tequila is honest, so I've become a regular.

I meet a friend there every Friday after the website deadline and we raise a toast and exchange stories about life in obscurity.

It's known as an "ex-pat" place (expatriates.) And it's the only time I see other "ex-pats". I like being called that, though I've never even looked up its meaning. But it has an exotic sound, don't you think?

I fancy the thought of old friends from the States having this conversation:
"Hey, what every happened to that guy, Hughes?"

"Oh, he's part of the ex-pat community in Armenia."

Makes it sound like I'm doing something subversive, when in truth most "ex-ats" are here because they're earning top foreign government dollars that stretch like elastic in this bottomed-out economy.

The bartenders at Cactus plays Puerto Rican cds, thinking that its Mexican music. I don't have the heart to tell them. I mean if your ears have been educated on rabis or duduk music, the difference between Eddie Palmero and Los Lobos is useless hair-splitting.

But at around 8, they have live music from a combo that includes a synth, a guitar and girl singer.

Until the other night, it has probably been 20 years since I even thought about that Shocking Blue song from the '70s, "I'm Your Venus". I'm not counting the Bananarama remake in the 80s. Anyway.

Here, in Yerevan, Armenia, in a "Mexican" restaurant opened by a Bulgarian and visited by "ex-pats", suddenly I'm hearing it. Except, like most lounge acts here that sing in English, this girl's language is merely phonetics and she, like many here who call BMWs, BMVs, was singing "I'm your Wenus".

I kept hoping she'd do (the Eagles') "Witchy Woman" just to hear if it would come out "ohh, ohh, Vitchy Voman . . ."

Anyway. Phonetics. I'm thinking there may be an out here for those of us who find language a double-edge sword (svord) that too often cuts on only one side.

I mean, how many times have you spoken the right words, but didn't really know what you were saying? Like "I do" for example.

Maybe that's how politicians, lawyers and television evangelists build careers: Saying things that sound right, even if they don't know what it means.

I expect we'll be hearing a lot of such talk in the next few weeks here, as official campaigning began this week for the February 19 Presidential elections.

There'll be a lot of bragging about how far Armenia has progressed in the past five years. And a lot of accusations about how little has been accomplished.

Bought men and their heavies will sing lies that pass for promises while other bought men and their heavies counter with their own songs that might sound close to the real thing, but lack validity.

And Armenia will wake up on February 20 still hearing "I'm Your Wenus".


 

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