One beautiful fall day while reading a book on the deck of my cottage a middle-aged man approached me and very politely introduced himself as Mark and said there was a “dead” tree on my property that needs cutting.
The “dead” tree was stuck between other perfectly healthy green leafy trees and I had not even noticed it. It did not pose any danger of falling and doing any damage. Mark offered me a reasonable price and said he as a member of the first nation does not have to add the tax to the price. It was tempting but at the time I did not feel it was a necessity and said I will let him know if I decide to cut the tree and asked for his phone number.
Mark looking at the book I was reading asked in what language the book was written and I said Armenian. He immediately said whether I knew about the American/Armenian football player Garo Yepremian of the Miami Dolphins.
What I knew about Garo Yepremian was that he was from Cyprus and played soccer but when he came to Detroit his brother who was a high school football coach encouraged and trained him as a kicker. I hardly missed any game by Miami Dolphins that was on TV. At that time Miami Dolphin was my favored team even before Garo Yepremian joined them.
Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised by Mark’s knowledge of Garo Yepremian and Armenians and offered mark a cold beer, and for over an hour we sat on the deck and discussed American Football in general and Miami Dolphins and the “small bundle of guts” Garo Yepremian in particular. (America Football is my second favored sport after Basketball, especially, College Basketball)
We talked especially about a championship game where Garo Yepremian after kicking the ball tried to tackle a BIG “bulldozer” of a guy protecting the kick returner that would have “crashed” Garo but fortunately just before Garo got to the “bulldozer” another Dolphin player tackled him and saved Garo that “little gutsy guy”.
It turned out that Mark knew a lot more than one might expect from a local tree cutter in a cottage country about Armenians and their “tragic history”. His positive attitude towards Armenians, and another discount for me being an Armenian, was more than enough to “reward” him and let him cut the tree.
The next day I was surprised when Jim the local handyman who is a “Mr fix it all” for minor plumbing, electrical, carpentry work, stopped by and when he saw the cut tree he said it must have been Mark the “Indian guy” who recently “pup-up” in the area and is going around and underpricing local tree cutters. I never saw Mark again but his positive attitude towards Armenians remained with me as a pleasant memory.
Another Canadian experience I had was when I had a hernia operation in Shouldice Hospital in Toronto. Shouldice Hospital is specialized in hernia operations and operates like a “factory assembly line”.
When I got in my room another patient in his early to mid-sixties was lying on his bed and reading a book, “Paris 1919” by Margaret MacMillan. I had read the book and found it fairly well researched and documented the history of the first world war and the Peace Conference in Paris, but as an Armenian, I expected more about Armenians and the Armenian Genocide in such a book.
I introduced myself and said something like “it is a well-written book but it was lacking an in-depth look at the Armenian issues and the Armenian Genocide”. He said Armenians were a very small part of the first world war and had not much to offer during, or after the war to the victorious countries who were busy carving the Ottoman Empire and dividing it between themselves while at the same time punishing and humiliating defeated Germany in the Peace Conference.
It turned out that Harold my roommate who was from Ottawa knew much more about the Armenians and the Ottoman History and especially about the First World war than Mark the “Indian guy”.
Harold was more sympathetic towards the Turks and especially towards Kemal Ataturk for whom he had great respect as a Turkish leader who outmaneuvered both Soviet Union and the victorious Allied Forces.
Harold was sorry for what happened to Armenians but he indirectly blamed the Armenian leadership for siding with the Russians. I argued that his blame was misplaced since all the prominent Ottoman Armenian political and intellectual leaders were arrested on April 24 1915 and eventually killed.
During this short conversation, I could not learn much about Harold’s personal association with Turkey and the Turkish people. As I said earlier he seemed to be a knowledgeable person about Turkey and Middle Eastern history. He could have been a diplomat or businessman doing business in Turkey. For sure he was a pro-Turk and I wished I had the time for a longer conversation with him and learned more about his reasons for being a pro-Turk, without necessarily considering him to be an anti-Armenian.
Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian.