Having been infected with a small dose of America's
Iraqnophobia virus, I made a recent stop into
my nearby Yerevan hardware store to investigate
its Homeland Security department.
Apparently there are not Armenian words for "duct
tape", but I did learn that connecting "Saddam",
"American", and "boom" conveys
a general, if bushy eyebrow raising, meaning.
The need to seal my flat from Weapons of Mass
Destruction (WMD) was inspired by the providence
of my World Atlas having fallen open and there
on Page 128 I learned that I live 500 miles from
This had not occurred to me when I moved to Armenia
more than two years ago, anymore than the thought
that a cowboy who pronounces n-u-c-l-e-a-r as
"nucaler" would be the bobbing head
of the Most Powerful Nation in the Universe (MPNU).
A bit of post-911 history for those of you lucky
enough to live in a world that has not yet gone
mad . . .
Duct tape is that wide, metallic-colored sticky
cloth Americans use for everything from holding
water pipes together to wrapping around the mouths
of screaming hostages.
A couple months ago an eminent expert in biochemical
warfare - or at least a stockholder in 3M, the
company that makes duct tape - told Americans
they should be prepared to seal their houses with
duct tape and plastic sheeting.
I am only reporting what I have been told, when
I tell you that on Valentine's Day this year,
duct tape outsold roses in America.
And so it is that this news from abroad and the
geographic epiphany of Page 128 led me to my local
"Amen Inch Tan Hamar" (that's about
as close as I can get to "Home Depot").
While the boys there were stumped to produce America's
favorite apocalyptic accessory, it is of some
comfort this near to the epicenter of evil to
learn that "scud" translates fluently.
Funny, it just doesn't feel like we're living
in the land of collateral damage.
I've been getting letters from home saying I
should get back to the States before war breaks
out. I reply that I'd rather sleep with the doors
open 500 miles from Baghdad than tape myself inside
a suburban bungalow in a country where skyscrapers
are shooting gallery ducks of the mad and inflamed.
These are good days to live in obscurity. While
occasionally it bothers me that most of the world
doesn't care about Armenia, these days it is comfort
knowing that most of the world doesn't notice.
I have at least once written to CNN asking why
Yerevan is not on its list of cities in its global
weather report. A few mild-tempered suggestions
that we are just as important as, say, Malta,
received nothing more than corporate response.
But then Monday night I got a call from another
American here, all excited to tell me that CNN's
televised forecast called for rain "in places
Dang it! Just when oblivion is looking safe,
the wiseguys at the world's weathermap have to
go and expose us. (Though I take exception to
the phrase "places like Armenia". What
places could those possibly be?)
With the possible exception of Turk and Azeri
name-calling, Armenia is not anybody's Axis of
So while the occasional call from my (World War
II veteran) father asks when I'm "going to
return to the good-old US of A", I think
I'll just keep putting off the move.
And while cafeterias on Capitol Hill are erasing
the word "French" from their menus (in
protest of France's refusal to join the war froth),
I'll hunker down on Nalbandian Street with a bowl
of matsun and find an eraser to use on Page 128.
And sleep like a fat baby, come dawn's early light
or the rocket's red glare.