This Man

NON-FICTION, 730 WORDS.

He’s long gone. This man, dressed as best he could, is lost to us. The New York City street where he stood has been re-paved, many times. The street has been better treated than he.

Today, the scrappy tree behind him has fallen victim to the bulldozer. The city landscapers have taken ninety years to transform the crude dirt path into something beautiful and deliberate, finished with a design to guide baby strollers and joggers alike. And this man, dressed in tatters, steps aside to time. This man is gone.

I want to touch him, as he stands. I can’t and yet I’m somehow pulled closer, closer to his image, to his circumstance, his story. I want to be there, in that Depression-era year, and offer him water, some hot food, and a bath. While he’s bathing I’d set aside his outfit—not presuming to discard what he owns—and get him a set of basic clothes, suitable for his modesty. I’d best-guess his size until we could get to a shop and fit him properly. That, all of that, is one thing I would want to do. The first thing.

This man is very important to me. He’s not my color, my blood, my neighbor, nor my generation. But he is mine. He is my concern.

From this one photograph, it appears he struggled and failed to build a life for himself. He may have been twenty, may have been fifty. He had rights but not the means to exercise them. I don’t blame, but I do judge. I judge that no seemingly-forthright person should have to stand as he stood on this particular day. I judge that no one should withhold opportunities freely afforded others.

I judge that along with the focus on seeking our stewards, we must consider providing stewardship as well.

I’ve been to Fort Moultrie. I’ve touched a shackle that bound men who were not criminals. I’ve felt a chain that held women who were not dishonorable, and who did not have an advocate. I’ve seen the manifests, read the re-named names of slaves, and their critical statistics of age, skill and disposition—that is, their degree of agreeability. I’ve seen the plan of a boat, where it was illustrated how Africans were laid out to maximize space during their terrible kidnap voyages from their homes.

I’ve examined these artifacts very carefully, and have given them full time and attention. I’ve grown heavier as I study, thinner as I think.

This man in the photograph was born a free man. Yet without social acceptance, without the preparation of education, without mentoring and encouragement and comfort at home, he was doomed to the posture of a broken man.

This man is long gone, but he is right here. Not simply preserved in a photograph; he also lives with us, you and I, today. He’s here to remind us that good people should not stand in shame. His legacy—you see, he did leave one—was to ensure someone’s talents don’t lie unexplored. As we say, the man is gone, but this man lives. He wants you to be weighty; wants you to be thin.

In my thinking of him, I am bothered by the concept of generosity. Generosity is Man at his best, where one gives something of value to someone in need, without expecting compensation. This man may have been given a few things in his day, but did he know generosity? And this is what bothers me. Did he ever have the opportunity to give something to others, something that was needed? And appreciated?

Generosity has an upstream. The action flows one way but there’s a satisfaction that only comes with giving.

My guess is this man had very little in terms of possessions. Maybe he’d held onto a doll that he saved for just the right girl, at just the right time. Or maybe he’d been generous with his time by helping a stranger set his car right on the road, when he could have just looked away. My fear of fears is that the precious dispensation of generosity may have been lost to one whose focus was pure survival.

Many years ago, a man in great need stood in rags. We can imagine, but we don’t know his story. His image speaks, as we consider what he can teach us.

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ABOUT: Ara Hagopian’s third book was published October 2016: http://www.LeavesOfYouthTheBook.com

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Center photograph by John Albok. This composite by Ara Hagopian.

 

Posted in New York City, non-fiction | 2 Comments

My new book– THE LEAVES OF YOUTH

THE LEAVES OF YOUTH— A new collection of original poems.

Lifelong artist and writer Ara Hagopian has selected 100 of his best poems from the pages of his youth—the “leaves” of loose handwritten papers he kept hidden in an old briefcase for over thirty years. See the fascinating arc of ideas that sprang from age 13 to 50, as the highs and lows of a socially-active teenager grew into youthful longings and ultimately, the wisdom of adulthood.

  • Genre: Original poetry, with several presented as historical stories.
  • Length: 100 poems, 30k words, 277 pages.
  • Format: Softcover, 5.5″ x 8.5″.
  • Price: $15.95 with free domestic shipping (MA sales tax where applicable). International price is $20.95 delivered.
  • Signed and inscribed as you wish.


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The book is available via PayPal. Major credit cards are accepted, you do not need a PayPal account to buy through PayPal.

READ A SAMPLE POEM (PDF of Hayward’s Grave, written January 24, 1985) :

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THE LEAVES OF YOUTH by Ara Hagopian.

THE LEAVES OF YOUTH by Ara Hagopian.

TO COME:  Reader reviews, special photographs, and more! Bookmark this page and visit often.

Hello readers, Ara here. Four days prior to publication, I came across this old letter from the Wakefield Superintendent of Schools. Note that Dr. Maio made three references to my poetry. When I asked for his recommendation, I must have given him the three poems I’d written through 1982. This letter is reproduced in the book, with permission.

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Also by Ara Hagopian:

THE FIERY WINDS a novelette (2015) http://www.FieryWindsTheBook.com

WHAT HAPPENED TO VICKY LEE? A COLLECTION OF STORIES (2013) http://www.VickyLeeTheBook.com

 

 

 

Posted in Book, Fiction, History, North Adams State College | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Incredible Mellie!

THE INCREDIBLE MELLIE!

In January I posted the story HER PAINTED ROOM, where my cat Mellie was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, and aggressive form of cancer. She was given a 2-6 month window, with June being her last month of expected life. I’m happy to report we are in the middle of July, and Mellie is still patrolling the house like the vital being she is.

Yesterday Mellie had another mass removed. We’d felt it growing the past month and consulted with her doctor. Mellie had been acting healthy with no restrictions the entire year. Was this lump the sign of the end?

The bad news: Mellie, in all probability, still has cancer. When her January lump was removed, a small bit of the mass was present in the muscle and our veterinarian didn’t want to cut into that.

When the second lump was detected, we had to make a choice. An operation is a $1200 decision for an animal at the supposed end of her life. If the answer was “yes, proceed with the operation,” then tests would have to be taken to see if there was evidence of spread in her body.

If there was spread, then there would be no operation, and we’d be looking at 2-3 weeks before we’d have to put her down. That was the reality our family faced last week, and it was more difficult considering we’d put down our dear 17-year-old cat Jadey last month.

Mellie passed her X-Ray, ultrasound, and blood tests—nothing was detected. She came home last night and is recovering well. She climbs, hobbles and runs as best she can. And she rests. Her body needs this time to get her wound healed so she can be at full speed again.

How long does Mellie have? If you ask her, it’s forever. For us, we know she’s playing with house money. Every day after June 2016 is a day she wasn’t expected to see.

She loves her life. She is tiny, soft, very healthy-looking and always happy for company, strangers and friends alike. She loves having her face touched, and never tires of human play and companionship. She is fortunate to have many people praying for her and wishing her the best. Beating the odds—that’s the incredible story of Mellie.

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Recovering from the day's surgery.

Recovering from the day’s surgery.

Posted in Cats | Leave a comment

Signs

We’re nearly one week on from our loss, and our thoughts are filled with Jadey. There will be a time for culling the best photos together, and finding the movies we made. For now, we’re dealing with the shock and sadness of our cat’s death.

Good friends have helped us through these days, and for that we offer our dearest thanks. Dog owners, cat owners, and non-owners have written or stopped by to help ease our feelings.

One dog owner put it in perspective: 16.75 years is a fine life. Dog owners know their pet’s expectancy is a few years less than that. Our family was fortunate to have our beloved cat Jadey so long.

What has this week been like? There hasn’t been a day without tears–these are terrible moments when we feel sorry for her pain, and sorry for her last weeks of difficulty eating.

We’ve had lots of happy remembrances as well. Jadey got her mouse, twice, early that morning. She was in her glory, fully-functioning, and it makes us smile. There are scores of other great remembrances, and we will reflect on them all, in time.

A few days ago her ashes were prepared in a small black urn. I brought Jadey’s remains home via the route she would have taken back from the vet if she had checked out okay that day. So her and my drive home was bittersweet, my hand on the urn package the entire ten mile ride. Jadey was home again.

There have been a few odd household instances worth noting. The night of her death we had a short power outage that we weren’t aware of. Only when we noticed all the clocks flashing 12:00 did we determine the power must have been interrupted. The next day the basement door pushed open while I was doing laundry. Usually this was the result of a curious cat on the other side. The space was empty–and there was no breeze. We’ve found a few objects in very odd places, and her favorite bed, the last place she layed in the house, was quite warm three days later.

Today another odd sight made us smile and think of Jadey. At our front door, a small paw-print of light was formed on the rug from the prism effect of the door’s glass. It made perfect sense, although we’ve never seen this manifestation in the 15 years we’ve lived in this house.

One week on, we’ve kept Jadey’s spirit alive by talking about all the things we loved about our dear companion. The shock of her sudden death hurts us very much. We take comfort in supportive friends and in dear memories.

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Jadey is with us in spirit.

Jadey is with us in spirit.

Posted in Cats, non-fiction | Tagged | Leave a comment

Goodbye to a Friend

Yesterday was a very sad day; we had to put our middle cat down. Jadey was almost 17 years old, and very healthy for most of her life. We weren’t planning anything of the sort, but her lower jaw had been giving her some trouble the past month and we brought her in for a follow up vet visit. Some aggressive tumors had grown in the two weeks’ time since the doctor had seen her last. Jadey was in pain and was having difficulty eating. The tumors were inoperable and growing fast. It was time for her to go.

Jadey was one of those pets you could call “the best cat ever”. She was a rescue cat, meaning she was up for adoption at a pet store. We don’t know much about her history. She was let out of a moving car somewhere in the Springfield MA area. She was pregnant. Some nice people brought her to a shelter where her kittens were delivered. Jadey was nearly a kitten herself, being a one-year old mom.

My wife and I were volunteers are the pet store’s cat shelter. When Jadey was brought in, we placed her kittens in homes and took her for ourselves. This was in the year 2000.

Jadey gave us a magnificent 16 years. She was an expert mouser, her last victory coming on the day she died. More on that adventure in a bit. First I want to tell you about the kind of friend she was. Because that’s what she was, a friend.

Jadey was “my cat”, meaning she bonded most closely with me. Cats sometimes pick one person for this unique relationship and I was hers. She gave me special handling privileges, prolonged eye contact and a basic vocabulary.

I could pick Jadey up on my slightest whim. Does that sound trivial? Have you ever tried to hold an uncooperative cat? Jadey did not like people holding her. She and I had an agreement; I could carry her anytime I wished, and she would delight in it, for as long as I wanted.

We had our way of holding; always on her right side, with her front paws hanging over my right wrist and my left arm cradling her horizontally. I have never held another cat like this and wouldn’t want to try. It doesn’t seem natural but with us it was very much so.

Another part of handling privileges were the mock fights we’d have. We would have wonderful battles, my hand vs. the laying calico. Inevitably, she would be on her back and I would place my hand directly over her face, grabbing it with all four fingers and thumb, gently shaking her head. She would firmly hold my forearm with both paws until I let go. Purring, all the while.

Jadey caught a mouse at 1:30 AM, the morning of her last day. She brought the live creature to us in our bedroom, and called out repeatedly for us to turn on the lights to see. She was so very proud to have brought her conquest to us! After some frantic and hilarious moments we took the unharmed mouse to a field where it would live another day. Jadey went back to bed, a very satisfied girl. The old lady still had it, till the end.

Let me tell you how she talked. Her vocabulary was such that she had phrasing for “no”, “hello”, “oh hi”, and “that feels very nice”. She knew when and what to say to us, and knew what we meant when we spoke to her, as well.

Our family has lost one of its own and we are terribly sad. There is so much to feel badly about, it’s nearly overwhelming. We were all in this together, all five of us, three cats and two people. We were a unit.

We have plans to move to South Carolina one day. It hurts to think Jadey won’t be a part of that. I’m sad that an animal trusted me, unquestioning on every decision, right through the very, very, very end.

It’s sad to look at her favorite spots in the house, knowing they have reverted to inorganic function. The big Scrabble box in the closet, where she used to isolate herself for sleep fests under the hanging suits. The overhead cabinet in the kitchen, where she would jump if there was the slightest bit of free space next to the cereal boxes. It’s all cold storage now.

Jadey was a friend. The last words she heard were “It’s okay,” repeated over and over until she was still. Because her two owners were with her, and dire times are obliterated when loved ones are together. We held her face and body as she passed.

I wonder, where is this being now? Where’s the buddy who was with us through household moves, all the snowfalls and heatwaves? Where is that thing, that gentle soul?

I believe she’s in a greater place, and she knows everything now. She knows her parents. She knows the disease that took her. She sees us. She understands.

Her family will be hurting for a long time. It’s part of what makes a family work. I can tell you, the loss is a big blow to a unit that functioned, lived and loved for so long. We will keep going, because that was what she knew. Jadey was taken away, but not removed.

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Jadey, Spring 2004.

Jadey, Spring 2004.

Posted in Cats, non-fiction | 2 Comments

Memorial Day (part one)

MEMORIAL DAY (part one)

The Literate Show commemorates a special American holiday with the first of several posts over the long weekend. Memorial Day is not about selling cars or mattresses. It’s not about cookouts or boisterous advertisements, nor is it the “start of summer”. It’s not even the day to thank a veteran for their service. Not on Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is our time to honor the United States servicemen and women who died in active service.

Those of us who live in the USA owe our freedom to countrymen who fought and were killed in foreign lands, skies and oceans. Who fought on our own lands, too. They died young, midlife and old.

They died not knowing you. They died, wanting to live. They did not want to fight a day longer than they had too, but for each, a war was their end.

The proverbial kiss in Times Square never seeped into their senses. They didn’t feel the thrill of rushing off a train to be forever united with their hometown sweetheart. They didn’t get to say the words “It’s over and I can go home.”

They didn’t have the opportunity to feel the pride of shaking the hand of a former enemy who had built his life back up again, in the free world.

Our men and women died for us. This weekend, we honor them.

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Posted in History, non-fiction, The Literate War | Leave a comment

Memorial Day (part two)

MEMORIAL DAY (part two)

The Literate Show’s second Memorial Day installment covers the men of Torpedo Squadron Eight, who flew from the USS Hornet to attack the Japanese, poised to invade Midway Atoll, June 4th, 1942. While making their slow attack approach, the American squadron of 15 planes was obliterated within minutes, shot down by Zero fighters and anti-aircraft fire. Of the 30 men of Torpedo Squadron Eight, 29 perished, with a sole survivor, Ensign George Gay.

Torpedo Squadron Eight (known as VT-8) were led by Commander John Waldron, an intuitive and gutsy man of 42 years of age. Waldron, who was married with two children, defied Admiral Marc Mitscher’s orders and navigated on a hunch to find the elusive Japanese fleet. Alone at the battle scene, VT-8 had no fighter cover; the USS Hornet’s fighters had followed another route that led them away from the Japanese.

VT-8 was wiped out due to several reasons. The squadron had never flown in battle. Their torpedoes were unreliable and had to be launched “low and slow”. There were no protective US fighter planes present. The entire Japanese force was focused on destroying the slow-flying American planes—there were no other attackers. Compounding the problem was the fact that the aircraft the men were flying were obsolete and overdue for replacement.

The sole survivor, Ensign Gay, was shot down with his squadron and remained in the water for twenty-four hours. Gay lost an average of a pound of body weight per hour. He survived the war.

VT-8’s efforts did not result in any hits or damage, but the Japanese forces had become scattered, and focused on low-altitude attacks. For the Japanese, death was to come from high above. Within an hour after Waldron’s men had perished, several United States dive bomber groups attacked and sunk three aircraft carriers in rapid succession. The 29 fated men of VT-8 did not die in vain.

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Posted in History, non-fiction, The Literate War | Leave a comment