Saturday, June 21, 2008


I recently visited a country that lies on the unofficial border of Europe and Asia. The first day of my visit I kept thinking that I was in some Canadian town somewhere in the outskirts of Quebec, it turns out I was in Armenia. Armenia has a rich history and even richer oligarchs.

Just south of Georgia, and north of Iran, this sovereign state once enjoyed the luxuries afforded to all those who gladly relinquished everything they had to the USSR (i.e., governmental control, industrial wealth, ideologies, and pets). In the early 90’s, Armenia ended its peaceful treaty with the communist regime, leaving its people longing for oppression and political instability. Today, ninety percent of the country is fluent in Russian and half of those people can apparently trace their ancestry to Martin Luther King, Jr.

The country’s history dates back to a time when the Greeks were too busy trying to control fire and had no alphabet. Some archaeologists postulate that Armenia was first settled in 6000 B.C., making it one of the earliest civilizations in history. And although Christianity was made up somewhere in Israel (or somewhere near that wonderfully peaceful part of the world), it was Armenia that first established it as its state religion around the fourth century A.D. Other important historical events linked to Armenia include the invention of the shotgun, the discovery that snow is cold, and the inception of the band Menudo.

The countryside is sprawled with endless grassy fields, barren patches, mountains, and broken down trucks. There are giant lakes, ever flowing rivers, and the occasional inflatable pool. The climate varies from fucking hot to fucking cold. It is sunny year round and very arid, making the extreme temperatures tolerable if not enjoyable. If the country had beaches, it would be perfect, but there are no beaches (and I am not going to categorize lake shores as beaches). As a result of the country’s topography, Armenians and their ungrateful guests can enjoy skiing in the winter, pleasant hikes and aquatic sports in the summer, and indoor badminton all year round.

The capital, Yerevan, is a clean, developed city with at least seventy-nine inhabitants. With a plethora of restaurants, and a dearth of brothels, this unassuming capital has a lot to offer. Yerevan is overrun with crazy drivers and even crazier horse jockeys. And although the traffic is at times unbearable, the taxi service is efficient and economical. But bear in mind that all drivers will do everything in their power to run you over in the streets and sometimes even inside movie theatres. I also found that many Armenians speak English, apparently the result of college and university level education. Most members of this Christian society are polite, helpful, educated, and somewhat brown.

Yerevan has many museums and cultural centers. Its streets are teeming with cafes, bars, and stray dogs. There is a sense of order and respect for authority in this ancient place, and most embassies and consulates are lined up all along one street, making it easy for any terrorist faction to declare war simultaneously on multiple countries. And it is always a treat to ride the subway in Yerevan because the trains are on time and you never run the risk of being mugged by giant rodents like in New York.

I also got the impression that Armenia is a relatively safe place, unlike Los Angeles or Tegucigalpa. There are police officers and security guards on every corner in Yerevan, and unlike their fat counterparts in the U.S., these cops seem friendly and are not obsessed with donuts or bestiality.

Armenian culture screams of antiquity and historical relevance (as opposed to Canadian culture). Some claim that their linguistic roots can be traced to Sanskrit, while others claim that the whole thing was made up in the mid 80’s. Inaccessible to many westerners (despite the Judeo-Christian connection), this culture is not wholly eastern, it is certainly not western, and classifying it as middle-eastern would be somewhat inaccurate. The people appear to be religious but not overtly. There is an appreciable sense of balance between their Judeo-Christian beliefs and the real world, unlike in most South American countries.

The food in this Eurasian wonderland is fucking great. Armenians consume everything from fresh water fish, to beef, lamb, pork, chicken and a ton of greens and vegetables. Their meals would be considered feasts by western standards and unlike fat, greedy people from the U.S., they share everything. Usually, they first serve grilled vegetables (e.g., tomatoes, large peppers, onions, etc.), cucumber and tomato salad, buffalo sour cream on the side, and a variety of breads. This first course can also include honey combs, fresh greens, and yogurt. The second course includes more vegetables like wild mushrooms, cooked in cream and or olive oil, boiled eggplant, and other delicacies. The meats are cooked in a variety of ways. These are served as the third course and can include everything-kebab, boiled and or grilled fish (trout is a specialty of theirs), barbecued lamb, grilled pork chops, and chicken. This last course also includes different types of hot and mild sauces that enhance the flavor of the meats.

Armenians pride themselves in the fact that all they consume (this being the case in most restaurants) is organic, even the fucking gum! Their wines range from semi-sweet to sweet and taste much better than the shit from Argentina and Chile (with few exceptions). All of their meals are either accompanied with wine or endless shots of vodka (multi-flavored vodka non-the-less). I also went to international restaurants, specifically Italian and French, and the food was pretty good as well. Unlike the Germans and English, Armenians have developed an exquisite sense of taste.

After the dissolution of its amicable partnership with Russia, Armenia has not recovered fully. With some semblance of industry and an ailing economy, Armenia depends on the wages earned by millions of its citizens who live outside its borders. This foreign money comes from countries like England, the U.S., and East Timor. Those who decided to stay earn a living working in the service/tourist industry, by farming, fishing, mining, and making large billboards that read “Fuck Turkey” (in Armenian of course). Its economic struggle notwithstanding, Armenia is relatively stable and its pigeons have plenty of breadcrumbs on which to feed.

My experience in this Eurasian paradise involved heavy drinking and a lot of masturbation. I wandered the streets of Yerevan absorbing all I could, including bird flu. I visited one of the world’s oldest Christian churches in the city of Dilijan, and was attacked by an old woman with rabies in the outskirts of Sevan. Luckily though, I was not harmed by large groups of children brandishing flamethrowers. The airport is clean and the women have most of their teeth. All in all, I had a great time, even as I write this from my jail cell in the center of Yerevan.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Survival tips for bear attacks

The next time you find yourself in the woods, or in a coffee shop, and you're attacked by a bear, don't panic. Instead, think back to these helpful tips and ensure yourself that you will go on living your empty life:

1) Despite what everyone thinks, one should fight back when being attacked by a bear. Standing still and playing dead are ridiculous ideas. There is nothing better than to attract as much attention as possible and to anger the bear. Remember, the angrier the bear gets, the more frustrated and stressed it becomes, eventually losing interest in you. The bear will then want to move on to other non-stressful activities, such as tossing a frisbee, making pancakes, or teaching CPR classes at the local recreational center. Either way, you'll survive.

2) Always go for the bear's weak spots. These include the hind paws, calves, forearms, and teeth. Striking the bear in the eyes, muzzle or genitals will not get you anywhere.

3) If you're attacked by a sow with cubs, the best thing to do is to grab hold of one of her babies and inflict as much injury upon it as you possibly can. The mother bear will fear for its cub's life and become hesitant to attack. Under certain circumstances, you can even barter with the sow. Try extorting valuable things from her in return for her offspring. You might land yourself an expensive set of tea cups, really cool roller skates, or even just honey.

4) Another avenue you can take when being mauled by a bear, is to try to reason with it. Despite popular belief, bears are intelligent animals that can process logical thought. If you present a pithy argument you should be able to change the bear's mind. Keep in mind though that bears are quick at catching invalid arguments and are easily frustrated by blandishment. In other words, keep it simple and don't bullshit around.

5) Studies have shown that most bear attacks are caused by the bear's sexual deprivation. Thus, one of the best things to do when attacked by a bear is to please it sexually. You must be careful though because if you become overzealous while pleasing it, it might attract other bears and this could lead to a bear gang rape. Bear gang rapes are among the worst in the animal kingdom. Thousands of people have been killed in these throughout history, including former U.S. president William Howard Taft, James Joyce, and German Chancellor Otto van Bismark.

6) Sometimes the best thing to do is to pretend that you're not being attacked. Most bear attacks lead to injury and even death because the person is obviously aware of what's happening. But if you pretend like nothing is going on, then chances are you're going to survive. The best thing to do is to forget about the attack and focus on happy thoughts such as a favorite childhood memory, the day you accidentally had sex with Margaret Thatcher, or you can think about the Ethiopian version of The Wheel of Fortune, anything that will keep your mind from the attack.

7) Another sure survival tip involves books. Bears are suckers for a good book. And what's great about this is that they're open-minded to most topics. So the next time you're being attacked by a bear try to read it a story, perhaps even a play. Be careful though because there are certain topics that are considered taboo in the bear world, here's a list of some of them: Social caste differences among Australian Aborigines, the rise and fall of the Sumerians, the Latin-American influence on the European economy within the last 14 years, and the success of Tom Cruise to list a few.