A 1960s American relic has, 40 years later, reached Armenia. No, I don’t mean Cher. But I am talking about something plastic: Pez.
It is the little things that make me happy. And you don’t get much littler than the tiny candy that this week made it into Yerevan markets with Disney characters on the front and product information written on the back, in Russian.
I bought “Tigger”, grape flavored, for 400 drams. An 80-cent bargain.
will come through the barrel of a Pez..
For the uninitiated: Pez, spelled in any language, symbolizes consumerism at its finest – a candy of debatable Epicurean value, packaged as a toy to be a child magnet and produced in about a gazillion different comic characters and super heroes. “Hey kids! Collect ‘em all!”
Like the Hula Hoop and the Frisbee and, much later, Cabbage Patch Dolls, Power Rangers, Teletubbies . . . Pez defined a generation on its way to becoming an icon. There are web pages devoted to Pez. There are Pez collectors. There are entire conventions devoted to Pez.
Now, Armenia is on the Pez map. Hoorah.
It happened in the same week as a new restaurant put up a sign 100 meters off Republic Square.
The new restaurant, a kalbasa’s toss from
where the statue of Lenin was prostrate in the
yard of a museum in the heady days before independence
was understood to mean self-reliance, is called
“CCCP”. That’s USSR to the English
speaking world. The restaurant’s logo is
a hammer and sickle.
American kitsch and communist nostalgia fighting for the same Armenian dram is a bellwether moment I’m happy to witness in this sociological Petri dish of a place.
The market potential of Pez in a child-friendly republic notwithstanding, CCCP has an early lead. Also recently, a new clothing line, CCCP Sportswear, came to town, with its logo on plastic bags – close enough to a stamp of legitimacy in a city where “Gapland” mimics the real thing, and “McDuk” and “Queenburger” are landmarks.
The Pez that has now made it to Yerevan is produced
in Slovenia. And, if the CCCP Fashion is the trademarked
one, it originates in Spain. Fifteen years since
gates opened to the consumable West, cultures
are still colliding in Armenia and it is often
fun to watch. (Did I ever tell you that I once
found a pair of “Al Pacino” jeans
in a shop here?)
It isn’t right that the Armenians, with so much of their own culture to exploit, should miss out on their share of the Pez windfall. So I have an idea . . . Recycle Pez, as sunflower dispenser.
If you know this country, you know that it is
a society fueled by sunflower seeds. Sidewalks
are paved with the disgorged black shells of a
billion seeds consumed by a culture at ease with
itself. The habitual movement of hand-to-seeds-to-mouth
is the motion of a people spitting, literally,
in the face of social decorum.
I’ve researched this, and have determined
that the size of a Pez candy and the size of an
Armenian sunflower make the newly-arrived iconoclastic
dispenser compatible to either – a multi-tasking
If Armenian ingenuity is as claimed, the day
can’t be too distant when we’ll see
a knock-off Pez with the tilted back head of hero
Vartan Mamikonyan at your service. Or the Pez
version of the Mother Armenia statue loaded and
ready to dispense the National Seed. Superheros
of Pez? Forget Spiderman or Wonderwoman. Show
me a Sasuntsi David series, and that’s a
collection I’m ready for my kid to start.
If I had one. A kid I mean. Which I don’t.
Otherwise, cultural phenomena aside, the arrival
of a toy-candy collectible might not be so amusing.
Even at 400 drams per bilingual package.