Updates and an Anecdote

Updates and an Anecdote

An Athlete Who Follows Her Dream

Every once in a while, a story crosses my desk that makes me want to cheer aloud. This one has to do with a girl named Ariana Chipolone who plays basketball for her high school in Old Tappan, N.J.

She’s quite good at her sport—good enough to take her skills with her to Armenia where she competed in the sixth annual Pan-Armenian Games.

The 18-year-old not only displayed her talent but indulged in fine Armenian cuisine and visited an orphanage as a member of Team Los Angeles. She had this to say about her experience:

“When you bond with your culture and mix in something you love to do with basketball, there is nothing better. What impressed me the most was how happy the children were, despite having little or nothing.”

Chipolone, who is Armenian on her mother’s side, returned home with a gold medal. Despite being the youngest player on the team, she averaged 12 points a game, scoring a tournament-best 23 points against a Syrian team.

The Los Angeles squad was composed largely of former college players from the West Coast. Also from Jersey was Julie Haledjian.


Book tour winding down

Two favorite authors: Chris Bohjalian visiting statue of William Saroyan in Yerevan (Photo: Aaron Spagnolo)

After three months of pounding the pavement with my new book, The Armenians of Merrimack Valley, it’s been a most rewarding experience for me. I can appreciate what writers like Chris Bohjalian and Peter Balakian go through when they’re out marketing their books.

The other evening, I was at Lawrence Public Library to address a group. I had no idea what the setting would be like. But I went prepared for the usual microphone and Power Point format.

Instead, I stumbled upon a more informal scene. Fifteen seats were arranged in a circle with a table in the center containing a tray of baklava. What the organizer had intended was simply a discussion group. No formal talk. No computers.

For the next 90 minutes, I managed to share a little history of my country; the genocide talks we were presenting at local high schools, and finally how the book materialized with co-author Phil Brown.

What started out as a 1,400 publication run by Arcadia is down to a mere 100 copies with presentations forthcoming at AGBU (Armenian General Benevolent Union) and a nearby supermarket.

It was also quite surprising to find the non-Armenian community so attracted to our story and how many of them were familiar with the genocide and our area churches. The respect we have garnered on the outside has been quite remarkable.


Team Ararat braces for cancer walk

A touch of Armenia will be at this year’s Relay for Life cancer walk in my city with a team I’ve managed to put together.

It’s called aptly “Team Ararat” and shows a photo of Mount Ararat with the slogan, “When people work together, they can move a mountain.”

Each member of my team will be wearing the tricolored tee-shirt and it’s bound to catch an eye or two during the 24-hour promenade around the track at Northern Essex Community College. If you’re around the area June 10-11 and wish to join the walk, please be my guest.

Among those who hopped aboard is Heather Krafian, who was able to combat some medical issues of her own a while back. She’s been an inspiration to all of us and a lot of it has rubbed off on me.

We are blessed with a lifeline of support from such people and my gratitude overextends itself.


William Saroyan remembered

Hard to believe that come May 22, it’ll be the 25th anniversary of that eclectic postage stamp minted to memorialize our very own William Saroyan. It sits there on my mantel as a constant reminder—that pose of him in deep thought with his two clasped hands resting against the left side of his face.

I had the occasion to meet Saroyan twice. The first occurred in 1960, while I was studying with the Mekhitarist Fathers in Vienna as a 19-year-old. I stumbled across him inside the library as he pored over a collection of books.

He wanted to know what I was doing there and I had to ask the same question. Come to find out, he made it a point to frequent the vank and chat with the priests. No doubt, the support he rendered either financially or morally was certainly appreciated.

The second time was during a book-signing at Belmont High School shortly before his death in 1981. I managed to take a series of photographs of the author, one of which was used for Jimmy Tashjian’s book on Saroyan.

A copy of that photo hangs on my bulletin board at church for the benefit of today’s students, most of who learn about Saroyan through class discussions.

It remains our responsibility to keep such notable figures alive for future generations to behold.

Source: Armenian Weekly Mid-West