Sunday, July 27, 2008

Little Armenia

The flat in L.A. is close to an area known as "little Armenia" (there's a big sign to tell foreingers). There's lots of shops with Armenian signs on them. Sometimes, if I don't look carefully, I think it's Thai - just down the road is "Thai Town", so it's a bit confusing.

It's strange to go into these Armenian grocery shops. The feeling is very, very familiar, it reminds me of Jerusalem, or of the Turkish shops in Hackney. In the groceries I find vegetables, yogourts and cheese, bread, olives, tahini... and across the street, Burekas (pastry full of spinach/cheese/potatoes), Lahmajun, and yogurt drinks.

When I grew up in Jerusalem I used to think of Armenians as different, foreign to the region - mainly, I suppose, because they're Christians. I imagined them as some kind of European people that happened to find themselves in the Middle East. Considering my own east-European ancestory, it now seems like a projection. In those shops I see how ridiculous to think of Armenians as foreigners. The language sounds like Turkish to me (I'm sure they would disagree). They look and talk like Arabs from Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, or some Jews, or Turks.

But sometimes people in the shop speak Russian - I guess they come from proper ex-Soviet Armenia - and then I get even more confused. Suddenly the shop becomes like one of these Russian immigrants' shops in Jerusalem.

The game of identities is ultimately limited. If there's anything common between all these places/peoples of Eastern front, (our West Asia), it is the inevitable melange, in Los Angeles or Beirut, that even after a century of ethnic cleansing and indoctrination continues to defy homogeneity. This may be a feel-good conclusion, but I don't care.

PS: Armanian beer rocks - nice, full bodied, slighlty bitter lager, all the way from Yerevan

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Los Angeles. America

What can I say? Everything is as you would expect it to be. The palm trees are tall. The toilets' flushing containers are huge. The car parks never end. The coffee is weak. The sun is strong. The people always ask me how I am. The sidewalks (pavements) are wide, but few people walk, and they seem to be mainly Mexicans and, in fewer numbers, white trash drunks.

California is over-familiar from all those US culture industry products, so there is hardly any room for surprise. It's the world as we know it, even if we've never been here. On some level it is reassuring but it also causes anxiety. I constantly expect movie scenes to happen on the Freeway, or waiting in the queue in the bank, when exactly does the mass-shooting start?

Strangely, I feel at home. I don't know why. I don't think it's only because of all those movies. I think it's mainly about the climate, which is pretty close to the Middle East as you can get.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I'm in Los Angeles

Will be in Autopia for the next two months.