Sunday, September 23, 2007

Los Angeles (Little Armenia) and Montreal

I suppose one falls off the earth every so often only to land again with experiences so rich that were I to stop breathing this morning I would still have a smile on my face.

I arrived in LA 3 weeks ago on a flight I could have sworn was headed to Yerevan. I never encountered so many Armenians in a plane at one time. I had to check the destination several times to make sure we were going to California and not Armenia!

So far LA has proved to be an interesting place to be. Aside from the obvious stress placed upon appearances and material acquisitions there seems to be a vibrant music scene - especially of young Armenian musicians playing their modern take and representation of the changing times. In 3 weeks I was privy to see The Dirty Diamond perform twice (see myspace) as well as Visa who used an interesting combination of duduk with their rock based songs. Furthermore I finally met Gor Mkhitarian and his band with whom I have just finished playing a show with in Montreal.
The personalities I am meeting in LA are refreshing, endearing, energetic movers and shakers with a passion for life similiar to my own. Often I think I might be back in Armenia were it not for the Los Angeles traffic and freeways that I need to navigate around. I met the organiser of this years Armenia Fund Telethon who graciously asked me to perform at this years Telethon. He seemed equally excited to meet me as I did him. I also met a pastor Father Vazken who runs a small church in Glendale (St. Peter). He is a man full of energy and passion for getting things done and spreading the Word of God in a way that makes it appealing to the youth. In July he hosted a weekend called 777 which was about forgiveness. The turnout was a great success and clips from the weekend can be seen in Gor Mkhitarian's new music video about God. All very inspiring stuff.

I've been joyfully reunited with many relatives - aunts,uncles, cousins, their children and as a result have had some wonderful quality time. A few trips to Malibu where I relaxed on the beach and watched the beauty of the ocean unfold before me as the sun began to set. Dinners in Beverly Hills where I reunited with my favourite activity of oyster eating. Mmmmmmm and rediscovered one of my favourite white wines - Santa Margarita. I have had two pedicures - a standard of LA living, and have been living a life of excess and luxury - something that defines America. The Armenian supermarkets here blow my mind. I can get absolutely anything available in Yerevan here so that I spent my first week eating Spas almost every day (yogurt soup). My bank account was opened by an Armenian, my air ticket was sorted out my an Armenian, I even had my car valeted by an Armenian. I spent an afternoon in Starbucks in the Valley and every other person through the door was Armenian....I'm not used to this in America and often have to pinch myself but what I realise more than anything else is just how many people have left Armenia. Sometimes I think it is worrying - I wish we would all go back. I hope that the future will see a change. So there it is.

Montreal is a beautiful city - almost a cross between London and Lyon. Its people are more conservative than the LAites and there is a distinct European feel to the city. The first thing we saw when we entered the hall was the box of sound equipment labelled "All Everything" (said with a heavy Armenian accent). This of course inspired much confidence!! Actually the Armenian Radio hour had done a great job at creating a really nice atmosphere and taking good care of us. I was lucky enough to meet up with the many relatives I have there as well as a bunch of good all Armenian lads who celebrated our concert success by inviting us to a typical Armenian dinner table on Monday evening. We had a lavish table accompanied by typically Armenian toasts with straight vodka. The stories became more vivid, the characters more unbelievable, and at 3:30 and after very many shots of vodka both Gor and I got out our guitars and did some acoustic songs which we thought sounded amazing of course!! (Wow we play so well!!! Hahahahaha!!!). At about 4am we were being driven back through a very quiet Montreal with our driver singing wholeheartedly about Karabagh. It was an experience not to be forgotten. The following morning was a quick trip to beautiful Old Montreal and a dash to the baklava bakery where I unashamedly purchased 6 kilos of the heavenly delight which I carefully packed into a suitcase and took to my relatives in LA. The concert evening was also successful. People were happy to hear something different and we had a lot of positive feedback from the audience. At one point I dragged a gentleman from a table to dance with me. I was later to find out he was a middle-aged batchelor and this had been quite a highlight in his evening!!!

So back to sunny LA and back to focusing on music. There is an International Music Festival I will be participating in on Sunday at a place called Crash Mansion in downtown LA. It will be a multicultural day with all sorts of music and I am looking forward to the experience. There are quite a few other invitations floating around so now its just a matter of finding my own musicians and taking it from there.
I received pictures from my parents who are back in Yerevan one year later. They are seated with two of my best friends there and listening to one of my favourite bands. My heart was filled with so much happiness that they are already back and experience the buzz and vibrant atmosphere of Yerevan this time of the year. My heart yearns to return and see the friends I made, to smell the air, breathe the dust and most of all to gaze upon Ararat that graces the skyline of Yerevan.
For now I will sign off with that image in mind.....
Peace and Love