Bird droppings surely leave their permanent mark on the paint of your car if you do not wipe them off
as soon as possible. So far, the worst paint damages on my dark-green Subaru Forester have been
caused mainly by pigeon dung.
I do not hate these birds, but I hate the fact that they are inconsiderate. I tried to talk to them a few
times, begging them not to use my car as their toilet, but they habitually ignore my pleas. My son
impatiently wants to shoot them with his pellet rifle, but I forbade him to take the liberty and pleasure of
aiming his rifle at any bird, unless he wants to lose the pleasure of owning a pellet rifle.
At the end of one frantic day at work, when I was driving up to my garage, I noticed a dove walking
like a drunken street bum on my driveway. I postulated that it might have been one of the perpetrators
who used the roof of my car as its open-air toilet. I successfully avoided driving over it, even though I
had the instantaneous urge to send it to hell as punishment for all the damages it might have caused to
the paint of people’s vehicles.
Later, when I was headed to the corner coffee shop with my Korean wife for an espresso, I noticed
that the dove was not drunk; it was unable to fly out of my way because it had a broken wing. It was
painful for me to see it helpless with a broken wing, because its miserable condition brought back many
childhood memories. I ignored it and continued to walk to the coffee shop.
During many similar walks to the coffee shop, hand-in-hand with my wife, I always talked to her,
enthusiastically, about interesting incidents that had happened at work that day. But the day I saw the
injured dove, I walked tensely, with my hands in my pockets, and my eyes looking down at the cracks
on the cold cement sidewalk. Many bittersweet, frozen emotions were determined to leak out of a
crack from the dam within.
An hour later, when I came back home, the decorative night light that lit my doorsteps was busted.
Usually a slight bang on its cover made it work again, but now I couldn’t afford to waste a second,
because the coffee that went down my esophagus an hour earlier was in my bladder now… and wished
to stay in no more. I was hurriedly walking a few steps ahead of my wife, and right when I was going
to take my last two steps to reach my door, she tapped on the light cover and illuminated the steps for
me to see that the injured dove was in front of my door. In a matter of two hours, I was first happy to
be able to spare the life of that dove, by not driving over it with my car’s wheels, and second, by not
stepping on it with my feet. But I also felt guilty for not killing it, because my sensitive behavior in fact
contributed to prolonging its agony.
Before going into the house, I found an empty shoe box in the backyard and put the feeble bird in it.
Meanwhile, my son and my mother came out and asked what the commotion was all about. My mother
commented: “Oh… my son is not brave like his father!” But when I looked at my son’s cheerless face,
I pointed my index finger in his direction and told my mother that my son was like me and that he
seemed to care and was sad about the injured creature. But my son interrupted me and vehemently
asserted that he was not worried about the pathetic bird… he was actually concerned about my
empathetic heart. He wanted to shoot the bird with his air rifle and put it out of its misery, reminding
me that it was probably one of the birds that carelessly pooped on my car.
My mother and I made a futile attempt to wrap a bandage around the wings of the injured dove. It
instinctively started flapping its wings, perhaps thinking that we were going to cause more harm. To
avoid giving it more pain, I figured that it was best to leave it in the box as it was. I threw some bread
morsels in front of it, put a cup of water in one corner of the box, and left it in my son’s room to keep
it warm and safe from predators overnight.
This whole test lasted more than an hour. I went to my room and, as I was putting my pajamas on, I
remembered that an hour ago I had to make a withdrawal from my bladder and deposit it in my toilet.
The anxiety of the past hour had stiffened all my muscles and my prostate gland. I waited over two
minutes standing up in front of the toilet bowl, caressing and wiggling my faucet, but I just couldn’t do
it. I whispered, whistled, and imagined myself to be on the river rafting trip that I had taken a few days
ago during a seven-day vacation to Fiji, but still could not relax enough. However, I was able to open
the heaven’s gate for the contents of my bladder only when I reminisced about the urinating game that
I used to play with my childhood buddies on top of a garage, next to our hut in Teero Camp. I counted
five backwards, and on zero I started peeing with a broad yet painful smile on my face.
If I do not become lazy or bored of writing, someday I will write about the “peeing game.”
The next morning, after I dropped my kids off at school, I came home and took the injured dove to the
bird sanctuary in Griffith Park, which was about a mile away from my house. With tears in my eyes,
choked throat and trembling lips, I recited a prayer as I released it in to the woods: “I do not know why
you chose my doorstep out of the thousands in the City Of Angels. Even though you may have
unintentionally aggrieved me sometimes, my conscience would have killed me had I chosen to kill you
in revenge, especially when you were in a vulnerable state. It was God’s desire to make our destinies
intersect. Maybe you learned something from me, and I had to learn something from you. While I’m
choking by seeing your helpless condition, I can safely bet that this very moment, the Almighty,
together with his one and only angel, are choking with tears of joy, laughing at me for talking to a bird.
From this moment on you are at God’s mercy. If and when you go to heaven, please tell the birds that
I have shot and killed with my air rifle when I was a teenager, that I am sorry, and I regret my reckless
Driving back home, I looked in the rear-view mirror and said to my face out loud: “Just like that bird,
you are one shitty-ass, feeble creature, and foolish to talk to a bird… shame on you! Besides, I don’t
think you are going to keep your smelly mouth shut; you are going to tell this story to everyone you
know… and they are all going to make fun of you!” At home, after I paid my second daily taxes to the
toilet bowl, while washing my hands, I looked up in the mirror and sardonically roared to the face that
was looking back at me: “At this moment, not only you are a shitty-ass and feeble creature, but with
your flimsy character you are predestined to remain a loser the rest of your life!”
Was God testing my heart by sending an injured dove to my doorstep?
Why was He testing my heart, didn’t He know already how passionate my heart was? Wasn’t He
responsible for my tortured soul? After all that was said and done, didn’t He decide how my heart was
supposed to be before I was even born?
If my life was written on my forehead like the old folks had told me, how many more times God
needed to look into my heart to verify that it was always full of emotions? Is He blind or deaf?
Well, just like I constantly scrutinized my children’s behavior, perhaps God constantly needed to check
on me, and correct my behavior with rewards and punishments. Unlike other kids, perhaps he
instructed his angel to correct me more with punishments than rewards.
Did God send that injured dove to my doorstep for me to remember, and continue to write about, more
of my childhood memories?
But let me wait a second now, and reflect again on my opinions. I believed that God was the number
one loser of all time, and He was dead. I was also convinced that even if He were alive, He must have
chosen to stay lost in the infinite Universe that He created, ignoring me, the creature that He created
with His own image. So why am I even blaming Him for sending me an injured bird? My atheist
brother-in-law would certainly say that everything that happened was just a coincidence. But I would
respond to him by saying, How many injured doves, and how often, fall into people’s driveways, and
how many of those injured birds walk all the way to their doorsteps?
May be it is time to admit that I am the greatest loser of all time to actually believe that God is a loser. I
was predestined to remain a loser for as long as I believed God was dead.
Anyway, after I finished writing about the gang of five, I became tired of typing using only my index
fingers. Also, I had become lazy after returning from my Fiji vacation. Besides, I was hesitant to
continue releasing the chaos that was still screeching underneath my chest, because all my sad and
happy memories that were frozen behind the imaginary dam decided to melt at the same time, creating a
stampede which made my diffident and self-doubting existence more traumatic.
The blinking bold “I” is still diligently blinking, and I have realized that writing is unquestionably
rewarding for me. I was not feeling guilty anymore for sitting down in my store and waiting for the
next foolish customer to show up. Ever since I started writing, I actually loved to come to my store
instead of hating it, because somehow I was able to write only there, under the stress that was
generated by dealing with unworthy customers and writing at the same time. In reality, because I’ve
become addicted to writing, I’ve been desperately trying to ignore many “looky-loose” customers who
visited and habitually took nothing from my store except some of my deteriorating patience. Just to give
one example, before writing this very sentence, I had to attend to a fool. This fool took 45 minutes of
Before this foolish customer appeared in front of my showcase, I was ready to start writing about the
doves and pigeons that were kept in huge cages at the Teero Shooting Range and which were released
only to be shot at by well-heeled Lebanese men by way of target practice.
After the foolish customer left, however, I felt trapped in my store, which resembled one of the cages
of those helpless birds… and I was obligated to deal with many fools like him, there, to earn a living.
Like the dove with a broken wing on my driveway, which I ignored and went to have my coffee, I felt
that I was on God’s driveway with a broken spirit to endure. Just like the birds that carelessly and
continuously dropped their dung on my car, I consistently directed my sacrilegious posture at Him…
and now I am in front of His doorsteps asking for forgiveness again. Besides asking Him to let me win
the California Lottery, I know for sure that I will be asking for forgiveness for more future
blasphemous reactions. Even though I did not deserve God’s mercy, maybe He wanted me to remain
“caged” safely in my small store with a broken spirit instead of allowing me to fly out of it to try
something bigger, only to be “shot down” by rampant competition.
I am sitting in my “cage” now and writing these lines; I shall and will continue to release the pain from
behind the dam safely through my index fingers, and allow the blinking bold “I” to pilot. I feel equally
rewarded and punished at the same time. Mixed blessings from Him are better than no blessings at all.
The Teero Shooting Range, from which the Teero Camp inherited its legendary name, was constructed
with wooden posts which were painted white. Its vast interior space had a seating area like a stadium,
and the pigeon cages were situated underneath its very tall, tin walls. I and my buddies sneaked in
through a hole that was dug in the wall near the hut where the Pastryman’s Son lived, and sat on the
very end of the stadium seats, far away from the guards, in case we needed to quickly sneak back out.
Men clad in olive-green camouflage suits stood waiting with their long shotguns behind a wooden rail
guard that was located in the middle of the court between the cages and the seats. They took turns to
shoot at the pigeons as the condemned birds were set free from a tiny gap, high above their cages. An
old man with a thick, gray mustache, who regularly had a cigarette between his cracked lips, sat beside
the cages and pulled down a thin rope. That rope enabled a small gate on the tiny gap to open, from
which the unwary birds flew to their deaths.
I do not remember exactly how old I was when I had my first pleasure of sitting and watching the
slaughter of pigeons at the Teero Shooting Range. I must have been about five or six years old.
But I do remember that I was seven years old when I desperately needed two small wheels for my
wannabe scooter. I remember sneaking into the Teero Shooting Range countless times before I became
desperate for those wheels.
The old man who opened the gate of heaven for the pigeons had a handicapped son. When there was a
break in the shooting rampage, this inflexible kid collected empty shotgun shells with a hand-made,
awkwardly-shaped dolly. This dolly had a triangular metal frame, and on top of it there was a twisted
metal basket that was made of the same rusted material of the pigeon cages. It had two small wheels in
the front and one smaller wheel in the back. The boy used his deformed left arm to thrust the dolly, and
with his right, healthier arm, collected the spent shells by using a short-handled shovel. While holding
the dolly with his deformed left arm, he slightly tilted his humpbacked body, positioned the shovel in
front of his deformed right leg, and pushed the empty shells into the shovel using, his healthy left foot.
It took my father and me two weeks to make that twisted and rusted metal object look like a trotinet
again. After fixing it, when I told my father that the rich man must have greedily twisted it very badly
before throwing it into his garbage, so that nobody would be able to make it operational again, he
quietly nodded and gave me a smile that froze on his face for a long time. Who knows what my father
was thinking while he was smiling, but the length of that smile convinced me that he was proud of my
My buddies and I had not been lucky to find wheels for the scooter as fast as we initially anticipated.
The Fisherman’s Son, who had vowed to exact revenge on the Bicycleman and his shop for distorting
my nickname, figured we had become unlucky because of his curses. So all five of us unanimously
agreed to put the blame for our misfortune squarely on the Bicycleman, and decided to double the
severity of the damages that we planned to inflict on him. We had our entire summer vacation for
retribution, but finding two wheels for my trotinet had become a pressing priority.
One day, while all five of us were tired of walking with our hands in our empty pockets in the narrow
alleys of the slums, dismayed for not finding two wheels, we decided to take a break and sit down on
some rocks that were right outside of the walls of The Teero Shooting Range
Coincidentally, we sat down just a few meters away from the hole which we used to sneak into the
shooting range. Soon we realized that the hole was hastily patched up again as usual. We always kicked
it in, and most of the time we covered it back ourselves to avoid the possibility of having someone
repair it permanently. The Garbageman’s Son, who was the most timorous among us, surprised us all
when he furiously kicked the repaired hole, shoved his head in, and screamed to create an echo inside
of the empty shooting range. That echo sounded very soothing. Soon we all took turns in venting our
frustrations. At one point we virtually created a musical melody by mixing our earsplitting howls, the
reverberations against the tin walls of the shooting range, and the cooing of the captive pigeons
emanating out of their cages.
Nobody seemed to be around guarding the grounds that day. The Butcher’s Son insisted that we all go
in and search for empty shells that might have been left behind. After a few minutes of fruitless
ambling, the Fisherman’s Son walked to the dolly that was used by the handicapped boy to see if there
were any shells left inside its basket. All of a sudden, ten eyes fell simultaneously upon the wheels of
About 15 minutes later, we were no longer taking turns to make echoes in the Teero Shooting Range.
Rather, we were taking turns to ride my scooter, thanks to the two front wheels that we pried off of
the dolly that was used by the handicapped boy.
That evening we enjoyed some of the happiest hours of our lives together. Even though the rear wheel
kept sliding off the trotinet, we tirelessly kept securing it back. When one of us was riding it, the rest
were cheerfully running behind or on both sides of it in the dark and quiet alleys of the shantytown,
annoying and disturbing many old folks. The rear wheel slid off whenever two of us jumped on it at the
same time. It is imperative to mention here that this scooter was not even close in shape and size to the
modern scooters that became ubiquitous and popular in the United States around 2002. The size and
shape differences between my resurrected trotinet and a modern-day scooter would be similar to those
of a 2005 Mini Cooper convertible and a 1959 Ford Thunderbird convertible. I felt that I was riding
Noah’s scooter, which he might have used in his Ark before it landed on Mount Ararat.
In those long summer nights, we never went back into our huts until our mothers, fathers or siblings
called us a million times. The night I had an operational scooter, my mother had to come to take me
home from the front door of the Fisherman’s Son. After exchanging a few nice words with his mother,
as I anticipated, she dragged me home by pulling and holding my ear the entire 200 feet.
That was the routine way to go home almost every night. I was immune to that pain. However, on the
way, I was worried more about what she was murmuring to herself– in Turkish, of course. By
referring to my trotinet, she was saying, Instead of bringing that piece of crap to me, my father would
have made a better choice eating his own dung. Every time she stressed a word, she pulled and
squeezed my ear a little bit harder. She was apprehensive that soon I was going to break a leg or fall
down and hit my forehead to a hidden rock in a sewer ditch. The tone of her voice left me with the
impression that she wanted me to fall and hit my forehead. That would have been a reason to take that
thing away from me in order to prevent a crush under a speeding car.
That night my father had left home early, possibly because he had to give a music lesson to one of his
students before going to play his accordion in one of Beirut’s many French cabarets. He did not have
the satisfaction of seeing me play with a salvaged scooter for the first time, joyfully sharing it with my
Come to think of it, my father did not see me drive a car for the first time either. He did not see me
graduate from elementary school, let alone the university. He was not around in my teenage years to
guide and protect me like an Earth Angel during Lebanon’s civil war. He was long gone under ground
by the time I married at the age of 23. And he was not there to ease my pain during my divorce, when I
was thirty five, and after. He did not enjoy the poignant smell of baby deposits while changing the
diapers of his grandchildren. The poor man did not see anything in his short life other than poverty,
hard work, and humiliation. His cheerful performances in the cabarets might have acted as his clown’s
mask behind which he veiled his painful and hectic existence.
As I was writing the last paragraph, first I felt itching and discomfort in my gullet, and then tears
gathered in my eyes. I tried desperately to send them in, but there was a “No Vacancy” sign inside… I
just couldn’t resist their impatience to gush out. So I went hiding behind a tall shelf and wiped them off
my face before they would have been exposed to some foolish customers.
If I compare and contrast my life with my father’s, I had better cut my tongue and shoot my brains out
of my head before uttering one blasphemous word against that Bearded Man who hid behind the stars
in a castle called Heaven.
I do not know much about my father’s life before I was born, and I do not remember anything until I
was after four. Even after that, I saw him very little. Summertime was the only time I enjoyed his
company. During school months, because he came home at around three or four in the morning, he
would be asleep when I’d wake up, and when I was home at night, he had to go back to the cabarets
to earn his living.
My father was born in 1910, in Iskenderun, a city currently in Turkey. When he was a little boy, about
ten years old, the Turks slit his father’s throat in front of him. While his father was bleeding on the
ground and pleading to the soldiers to spare his son’s life, they playfully hit the mortally wounded man
with their rifles’ butts and kicked him into a ravine where other bodies were piled up already… Most of
them were dead, some were slowly dying. Somehow the young boy managed to slip away from his
captors while they had taken a break to re-sharpen their swords. He ran home and escaped the
massacres that were still going on at the end of the First World War in the southwestern Armenian
provinces. With his mother, two brothers, and two sisters, he escaped to Aleppo, Syria. Four years
later, they returned and settled in Deort Yol, a city in Turkey today, but under French occupation at the
time. Deort Yol City, which in Turkish means four roads, was located on the intersection of four
thoroughfares that extended in and out of Turkey.
Survivors of pogroms from many major Armenian cities and villages in western Armenia and Cilicia
used those four roads first to come and settle there, and many eventually used them to escape from the
Just like I protected the injured dove from the predators of the night by putting it in a shoe box, the
young dejected boy was transferred many times from one orphanage to another until he was finally sent
to a better one in Lebanon, because he was very smart and had more potential to succeed. Only one of
his brothers, whose name was Vartan, was allowed to accompany him; the rest of his family had to
One day, when he was about 16 years old, in his spare time he built a violin by carving a piece of a dry
trunk which he found on the grounds of the orphanage. He used sand to take the rust off some wires,
and attached them to the body of the violin. He cut the long hair of the horse that belonged to his music
teacher, and attached it to a branch, turning it into a bow. He unpretentiously started to play that violin
in the dark and cold room that he shared with 40 others, while his roommates were outside warming up
under the Sun. His music teacher, impressed by the determined young musician, decided to give him
extra lessons. He took the crude violin from the assiduous young man and presented to him a brand-
new one. Soon after that, he learned to play other music instruments including his favorite one, the
accordion, which was widely used by French musicians.
Apart from protecting the injured survivor, the orphanage gave him a basic education. There he learned
how to read and write Armenian and French. He also learned music, which eventually became his
career. But the filthy conditions of the orphanage cost the struggling young man most of his eye sight.
In the morning, after washing their faces from the same bucket, all the kids used just a few towels to
wipe their eyes with. An infection made some of the kids blind. My father lost one eye completely, but
was fortunate to keep half the sight in the other. Vartan, his brother, realizing how dirty the water and
the towels were, did not have the same misfortune, because he always pretended to wash and wipe his
face without actually letting the water or a towel touch his skin. He should have convinced his brother
to do the same.
To support himself after leaving the orphanage, my father, started playing his accordion in bars,
restaurants, and on special occasions. I wonder if the principal of that orphanage recited a prayer
before releasing him into the wild, telling him that from that moment on he was at God’s mercy, just
like I had done to the injured dove that drifted to my doorstep.
While walking one day along a very busy street after finding a steady nighttime performing job in a
cabaret, the blinded young man decided to reward himself with a pack of cigarettes. Noticing that there
were no cigarette sellers there, he built a small box, found suppliers, and started selling a variety of
cigarettes on that street during daylight. Years later, when he realized that others had joined to share his
fortune, he searched and found other streets without cigarette vendors, and continued to make and save
money. He would sell cigarettes by the piece to those who couldn’t afford to buy a whole pack, and
consequently made more profit. After he settled himself in a spacious apartment, he went to Turkey
and brought all of his family to Lebanon to share his better circumstances with them. Meanwhile,
Vartan became a shoe repairman. But unlike his conscientious musician brother, he spent most of his
earnings on liquor and fallen women.
My mother was also born in Iskenderun. She was the oldest of her five siblings; she had four brothers
and one sister. She never told me when her birthday was. She did not know it either. But if she is 86
now, I assume she was born around 1922. Her parents were rich compared to many others in the
1920s. They had a grocery store, ran a bakery, and also produced arak, which is a drink similar to
Japan’s sake. My mother was lucky to receive some elementary education. While her mother and father
were busy running their businesses, she was in principle responsible for raising and taking care of her
Around 1938, when the French military in Turkey pulled back to the Syrian border, fearful of recurring
Turkish reprisals, my mother’s family left with the French. Benjamin, my maternal grandfather, left
most of his wealth behind and headed for Lebanon. Disgraced and dispirited, they settled in a hastily-
built hut in the squalor of the Sanjak Camp, which was separated from Teero only by a narrow, paved
My grandfather turned half of the hut into a grocery store, added a second story on it to make room for
his large family, and became a respected businessman again, though his new success was on a much
smaller scale than what he used to enjoy in Iskenderun.
My mother and I shared the same name, but her name was the female version of mine. My given name
was Berge. Bear-jig was my childhood, cuddly name. I was supposed to be called like that until I was
ten, but at 47, my friends and family still call me Bear-jig. By adding “uhi” at the end, my male name
became a female name. My mother’s name was Berjuhi. There are few more names in Armenian that
are similar to ours. For example, Haig is a male name, which incidentally was the name of one of my
uncles; the female version is Haiguhi. My father’s name was Tigran. When he had his first daughter, he
named her Tigranuhi.
Five years after settling down in the Sanjak Camp, one day, a man who happened to be walking in front
of my grandfather’s grocery shop approaches him and asks about the beautiful and hard-working girl
who was sweeping the grounds in front of his hut. Before my grandfather answers, the man, while still
staring at the girl, curiously asks her what her name is. When my grandfather proudly tells the man that
the bashful girl is his daughter, the stranger reacts by saying he is looking in the wrong places to find a
wife for his distant relative’s hard-working musician son.
After a few initial rejections, one reason being the condition of the musician’s eyesight and another the
12-year age difference between the girl and the boy, both sides agree to let them marry.
Most, if not all, marriages in those days were arranged by elderly middlemen and women. Girls rarely
meandered out of their homes without the company of their parents, and men were too humble to find
wives on their own. This was not the only way men and women met and started families together, but
simply the traditional way.
For the first time in her life, the overburdened young girl becomes joyful. First, she no longer has to be
subservient to her parents. Second, she finally gets out of the slums. She ignores the neighbors’
criticism that she is blindly marrying an almost blind man, as she is excited to be moving into an
apartment building in the capital city.
The newlywed girl’s euphoria ends on the very night she moves into the apartment in the city. Soon
she realizes that she has to sleep in the same living room where her mother-in-law sleeps, while two of
her sisters-in-law share another room. Her dream of depositing her daily taxes into a flushing toilet and
wiping off the residue with soft toilet paper never materializes, as she finds out that the bathroom in the
apartment is broken… she is at the mercy of cut newspapers again, and a handmade “box collector”
conspicuously located behind a semi-transparent curtain.
Overnight, the 21-year-old subservient young daughter of Benjamin the Grocer becomes the 21-year-
old submissive daughter-in-law of Musician Tigran’s mother. It would have been better for her to
remain confined under the master she new instead of moving out and being enslaved by a master she
did not know.
I never dared to ask her how and where she showered and made love. That would have unduly opened
a crack on the walls of an imaginary dam she might have had inside of her heart, behind which she
might have been keeping her own frozen, painful emotions.
Hundreds of miles away, Armenia and the Armenian people, after being conquered, pillaged, raped, and
slaughtered by invading hordes of Mongols, Tatars, and Turks for nine centuries, at long last found
security in a huge box called the Soviet Union. Like a double-edged sword, that protection was a
blessing and a disaster for the injured Armenians. Other than God, nothing lasts forever. But I am
convinced that some endangered species survive and persist longer in captivity than if left alone free in
the wild. From 1922 until 1945, the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic made impassioned appeals to
the Armenians scattered all over the Middle East to return to their homeland, because the country was
in dire need of talented and skilled people. Some impoverished Armenians, who escaped from one city
to the other during the First World War, chose to migrate back and live more prosperous and healthier
lives under authoritarian rule, instead of carrying on with their miserable lives in squalid shantytowns
throughout the moderately broad-minded neighboring Arab countries of Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq.
I know that my father used to write in the local Armenian newspapers. He was a realist. Even though
he read the Bible a few times, he wrote down some nasty prayers in his notebooks directed against the
Transparent Man who lived behind the stars in a transparent castle. But he couldn’t have had socialist
or communist leanings, because, more than anything, he adored freedom of speech. In his editorials, he
criticized democratic and authoritarian governments, clerics, heads of state and just about anyone and
anything that created social injustice for hard-working men. I’m sure he was judicious enough to know
that freedom of speech would have been possible for him only in a country that had a tolerant
government. In Lebanon he was poor but he was also free to express himself, which deeply satisfied
I never figured out why a man of his character and principles went knocking on the doors of the
organizations that were responsible for arranging the relocation of Armenians to Armenia, begging them
countless times to be considered and given the chance to go and help rebuild his country. My mother
never told me the main reason why he was turned down. She said priority was given to the poorest
families. My father was turned away because he happened to live in an apartment in the capital.
In 1947, after having lived a semi-decent life for four years in a semi-decent apartment, my father
actually moved the family to the slums of the Teero Camp, with hopes of being considered one of the
poorest candidates for a free ride to Armenia. However, whenever my father’s number was called,
corrupted men hiding their faces behind their cigar smoke always rejected him, informing him that no
room was left in the airplane.
I can only assume that the poor man was rejected because of his limited eyesight, and perhaps those
dishonest bureaucrats had read something about them and their organization in the local Armenian
newspapers, written by the same half-blinded, free-spirited man.
To answer the question of why a free-spirited man decided to go to a communist country, I can explain
with a Turkish saying, Denizeh dushen yilana sarilir, which means someone who falls into the deep sea
will hold on to a snake so as not to drown. Maybe the poor musician was going through such extreme
financial hardships during the Second World War that he was willing to give up his freedom of
expression and sacrifice his principles for mere survival.
It seems that I digressed from the subject of the injured dove that came to my doorsteps. But as I
started writing about it, I realized how its condition was comparable to the plight of many other injured
doves. Men, women, children, and the elderly of the Teero and Sanjak camps were all injured one way
or another when they arrived there. While few had strictly physical or emotional scars, most had both
kinds in equal measure. Even the stray dogs and cats of the slums had both physical and emotional
injuries. Anytime people had the chance, they took their anger and frustration out on the starving and
helpless creatures by throwing rocks at them and beating them with the same sticks that they used to
strike their own children with. Some men used the same coarse brooms that served to sweep the rough
grounds of their huts to keep stray dogs out of their huts, and to discipline their children, wives, and
I just couldn’t write about the injured Armenians without writing about the dismembered and plundered
land where they came from. Writing about my biblical land had not crossed my mind when I started
writing about the injured dove that fell on my driveway, but apparently it was the greatest injured dove
that was in my heart, and I had been ignoring it all my life.
The bloodied ground outside the Teero Shooting Range, where injured and dead pigeons fell, had
become the ground on which many of the injured Armenian survivors of the 1915 Turkish massacres
erected their huts. The injured and dead pigeons, together with the shells that were fired at them, eerily
rained down, sounding like hail on the tin rooftops of the injured survivors’ huts. I know, because I
myself was born in one of those huts.
Just like the tears of my childhood buddies that were mixed with mine inside of me, the day I was born
I already had the painful injuries of the Armenian martyrs in my blood.
This subject is greater than my abilities to delve in it in detail. But I believe I was able to address it at
least tangentially. I do not know why God twisted and turned the fate of the Armenian people, like my
twisted and turned trotinet was when I first saw it, and dumped it out of His sight in His garbage can
which we humans call Earth.
Was a cruel God playing a sadistic game with His one and only bloodthirsty angel, in which they
decided to intersect the destinies of the injured pigeons and the injured Armenians on the grounds
outside of the Teero Shooting Range?
Well, when I was a little kid growing up in the slums under one of those tin-roofed huts, I did not
understand what kind of game an omnipotent God was playing with us. But I did understand why my
parents were poor, because they told me where they came from and how they persevered. I couldn’t
dare to ask for money from my father; he gave only when he was in a giving mood. I learned fast that
when I asked my mother for a quarter, to buy a chocolate bar, I would get a pull on my ear, a slap on
my face, or a kick on my skinny behind if she happened to be in an angry state.
Unfortunately for me, my mother seemed to be always angry at something. And when I asked her for a
quarter when she was in not so bad a mood, I was given a lecture in economics sans quarter in my
palm. How dare I ask her for a quarter to buy a chocolate bar when she was debating in her strained
brain whether to spend a dime on a batch of mint or a batch of parsley for embellishing my father’s
At a very early age, I had no choice but to learn to depend on my own ingenious ways to get a hold of
a nickel or a dime.
A narrow alley separated a portion of the northern wall of the Teero Shooting Range from the walls of
the Armenian Church. Another section of the northern wall stretched behind a cold-storage building.
However, a large section of it faced a vast empty field, and it was located between the other walls of
the church and the cold-storage building. Only a handful of pigeons that flew out of their cages actually
fluttered away to freedom. Most were shot dead and they normally fell right outside the tall walls of the
shooting range in that empty field. During summer, at around 4 in the afternoon, men, women, and
children went to wait in that empty field for the bloodbath to begin.
For me and my buddies, a dead bird fetched a nickel. We made a dime for an injured dove. I knew at
least one man who delightfully pulled the head off of an injured bird before giving it to his chubby wife,
who always seemed to be cooking something in her stinking kitchen. If I were able to deliver three
dead pigeons all at once, I made a quarter.
My parents did not know for a long time that I delivered dead birds to men in the shantytown in
exchange for a few nickels. For some, those birds were their only affordable meal. For others, they
were just an appetizer or a delicacy which they enjoyed swallowing with some arak while listening to
Another way we earned a dime was similar to the way people looked for gold in a river or stream. A
piece of discarded mosquito net was nailed to a square wooden frame. It was used painstakingly to
separate spent hunting-rifle shells from the sand and soil of the slums. A mysterious man, whom we
had never seen without his dark sunglasses, had a crooked table outside the Teero Shooting Range. He
paid us a dime for a bucket of empty shells. But he was not there all the time, so my buddies and I sold
the same bucket of shells to grocers for just a nickel. Sometimes it took us about a month to fill one
The men who aimed their shotguns at the flying pigeons and mercilessly pulled the trigger were happy.
The graying man who opened the gate to release the pigeons, and his handicapped son who collected
the spent shells, were happy to have a job.
The poor people of the Teero Camp who ate the slaughtered pigeons were happy.
The women who used the plucked feathers of the pigeons to fill their beds, pillows, and comforters
The poor kids who sold the dead pigeons to earn a nickel or a dime were happy.
The grocers who earned a nickel selling a bucket of lead shot shells to the mysterious man were happy.
The mysterious man who gave the kids a dime for a bucket of lead shot-shells was happy.
The starving cats and dogs of the slums who chewed and ground the bones of the dead pigeons were
The dead pigeons were happy… and the injured pigeons that eventually died were happy.
In the afternoon that I released the injured dove that came to my doorsteps, my son asked me why I
cared more about a bird that might have used my car as its open-air toilet than I cared for him. I told
him, “When you go to war, you shoot to kill your enemy soldiers. But you have to take care of them if
they are captured alive and/or are injured. In most instances, to show your humanity, you have to take
better care of your captured and injured enemy than your own comrades”. I also told my son that when
I was a little boy, dead and injured doves and pigeons were dropping from the sky instead of their
What I did not tell my son was the fact that those innocent dead and injured doves that fell from the
sky on top of my tin-roofed hut had left their permanent mark on my soul.
I wonder if all the dead and injured doves had left any permanent mark on God’s soul. I doubt it,
because only humans could show humanity to each other and to all other living creatures around them.
As a conscientious human being, I showed that injured bird humane treatment. God was, is, and
forever will be inhuman. He has His own sadistic ways to shape human behavior. I cannot expect
humane treatment from Him anytime soon.
The text below titled "Injured Doves"
includes my father Dickran Vassilian's
biography. It is an actual chapter from
my novel "The Intrepid Pigeon."
The "Bearjig" web site was created
primarily to promote my self-published
"The Intrepid Pigeon"
and my music CD,
This particular page is dedicated to my
father Dickran Vassilian. If you came to
this page directly from the Internet, I
urge you to visit my home page first,
dickran vassilian, dikran vassilian, Berge Wassilian, The Intrepid Pigeon, Bittersweet Dreams, bearjig, berge, berge wassilian, vassilian, the intrepid
pigeon, intrepidpigeon, theintrepidpigeon, bittersweet dreams, smooth jazz, Lebanon writer, Armenian writer, Lebanese writer, dickranvassilian,
complete in 1963.
From left to
Dickran Vassilian playing his cherished accordion in Lebanon's cabarets.
There is one
thing that I regret
the most in my
One day, around the
age of 8, my father
had asked me to play
the piano when his
dear friend Mr.
visiting our hut in
Lebanon. During my
childhood, I had
learned to play my
father's old piano on
my own. Later in my
life, after he was
long dead and I had
contemplated that my
father must have
desired to feel proud
in his friend's
presence with the
fact that I had
learned to play
notes and without
him teaching me how
to play. I was a shy
little boy then; I had
ignored his pleas to
perform and had ran
away from the dark
living room of our
hut while they were
Thus, my life's
greatest regret is
the fact that I had
denied my father a
You are listening to my
With My Father."
My father died when I
was ten years old; I
never had the chance to
play the piano with him
accompanying me on
his accordion. I
composed this tune to
reflect that misfortune.
The tune presents
two characters: Me
and my father. I
play the piano, then
I play the accordion
as if my father
the duet, we play
some sections the
sound of the
missing. I added the
echo sound effect to
the accordion to
give the impression
that my father's
memory had always
been with me
throughout my life.
Now, here are the
a.- I am not proud
can never allow
myself to feel like
a composer or
musician. I am an
performing the tune
that you are
listening to, I sat
down in front of my
wished that my
hands moved mine.
I strongly believe
that his hands
had to do
it, because I do
not believe that I
composed it on
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