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Nobody reads memoirs

Nobody reads memoirs

by Wolf Pascoe on August 8, 2011

Every moment in your life is a turning and every one a choosing.
— Cormac McCarthy

What’s strange about my friend Hrair is he keeps writing posts for this blog. He doesn’t write them intentionally. He just responds, in long emails to me, to what I write here. I write him back and ask him if I can publish his response.

First he says, no.

Then he says, yes.

“You should write a memoir,” I said to him recently.

“Nobody reads memoirs,” he said.

They’d read yours, I thought.

The mysterious Hrair, readers may remember from Childhood in Beirut, is a man of many nations who speaks seven languages. Raised in Beirut as a Christian, his family is from Armenia. He lives now in California.

Recently, I wrote a post about Cormac McCarthy’s novel, The Road. The story concerns a father and son walking a road of unimaginable terror. Unimaginable, at least, to me.

Hrair sent me this email in response:

By now you know my relationship with my dad.

Let’s go back to 1977, in the heat of the Lebanese civil war, when every one was hiding from a shrapnel, sniper or unknown vicious disaster. I decided I wanted to visit my dad whom I had not seen for a few months. He had fled with my mom to our country house located in a beautiful valley. This multicolored fertile land that others eyed to control for centuries.

So I hop in the car one morning with my friend and drive past numerous check points manned by thugs and all sorts of crazy animals who consider your life as expensive as the price of one bullet. Besides the check points, there is no one on the streets.

We reach our house. I try to hide the car in an alley, and climb the stairs to see my dad with joy and anticipation that I am going to hug him and spend the weekend with him.

I knock at the door. My dad opens the door. I had never seen his reaction so tragic and deceived. His face turned white as if someone drained all the blood out of him. He barely spoke. Under normal circumstances I would have hugged him like a little kid but something was awfully wrong at that moment.

His first words to me were: what are you doing? why did you come?

I was shocked. Of course I did not realize his fear. I wanted to see him. He immediately took us in. He said we will have to go back at the crack of dawn the next day. One faction was going from house to house and killing all the Christian young men.

I had never seen my dad so scared. We barely spoke to one another that day. I could not wait for morning to come so I can leave and relieve him of this awful sensation. Obviously I made it safe the next day, because I am here now writing this note.

On a different note, watch the Russian movie The Return if you have a chance.

Love your blog.




I read the above with many emotions, including a sort of shock that the truth of McCarthy’s novel could be so easily validated by someone I know.

I think about my friendship with Hrair. He and I make an unlikely pair. It’s not too far-fetched to suppose (had some grandparent of mine left his one-horse town in the Pale and headed south instead of west) that we could have ended up on opposite sides of an Arab-Israeli war.

I thought of leaving out the last three lines of Hrair’s note. But I’m struck how the easy transition from I made it safe to watch the movie to Love your blog. Cheers. reveals something in his character. It tells me that Hrair’s experience has made him a philosopher, not a warrior. I find few things as pleasurable as talking with him leisurely about issues close to both our hearts, and contemplating how two guys of such different backgrounds can be so alike.

As when Rick and Captain Renault walk off into the night together at the end of Casablanca, it sort of gives me hope.



Childrearing in Beirut

Recommendation for fatherhood



The trailer for The Return. (There’s an American film of the same title, which you can skip):


Art Passions — The illustrations above (“The Eastwind Flew More Swiftly Still” and “Hidden by the Sleeve of Night” by Edmund Dulac) are taken from this lovely website, which warehouses and merchandises public domain art from some of my favorite artists. Among them are Rackham, Maxfield Parrish, and the Preraphaelites.


The ending of Casablanca. The link takes you to You Tube. (They won’t allow an embed of this one.) If you haven’t seen the movie, drop whatever you’re doing, get a copy and immediately watch the whole thing.


Any thoughts about Hrair’s story? Add your comment below. I always respond here. This just in: you can be notified of responses to you by clicking “Replies to my comments” in the drop down menu under your remarks.


Three things you can do if you love this blog.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Wolf Pascoe August 8, 2011 at 7:08 am

When I ran this piece by Hrair prior to posting it, he made the following comment, which he has graciously allowed me to quote here:

Every time I read these stories back I get tears in my eyes. To me there is no Arab, Israeli, Black, White, Democrat, Republican. To me every one has something to offer and it is for us to discover that talent and promote it. I have lived my life this way and I will continue to live it this way.

And yes, Cheers. For we should be happy for every day we have filled with colors and stories.


BigLittleWolf August 8, 2011 at 9:08 am

This is lovely, Wolf. As is Hrair’s comment you just posted.

Perhaps if we focused on changing the world one person at a time, one friendship at a time, parent to parent, story to story – we might do better than our hapless attempts born of posturing and politics.


Wolf Pascoe August 8, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Think globally, act locally?


Kelly August 8, 2011 at 2:18 pm

It’s hard to find a place for daily violence and senseless death in the tapestry that makes up the life of an U.S.-born citizen, but it’s there and it’s happening right now as it has happened for decades. Somehow the Nation masks the individual and sets everyone apart when really we are so much the same. We need more Hrairs telling the stories of the past and helping us better address what’s happening now.


Wolf Pascoe August 8, 2011 at 5:22 pm

When the bond between heaven and earth is broken, only a story can mend it.
— The Baal Shem Tov


Barbara August 8, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Thank you so much for introducing us to Hrair. He truly is an inspiration and a person to emulate. I agree with you that he should write a memoir. I’m grateful for the glimpses into his life I get to read here.


Wolf Pascoe August 8, 2011 at 5:19 pm

I’m going to hazard a wild guess and say the more one sees of the world, the more compassion one has for the people in it.


Alameda August 8, 2011 at 8:16 pm

I cannot fathom the father’s fear when he saw his son and what could have happened to him

Every now and then I read “all I need to know I learned in kindergarten”.


Wolf Pascoe August 8, 2011 at 11:03 pm

I need to read that book.


Tom August 9, 2011 at 11:17 am

Thanks for sharing Hrair’s “memoir” and his movie tip as well.


Wolf Pascoe August 9, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Let me know what you think of it!


Sirena August 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Was it Hrair’s experience that changed him so that he could say “cheers” and mean it or was it his character or attitude that saw him through a “The Road” experience? Love your blog too.


Wolf Pascoe August 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm

He has a rare nature, but it doesn’t hurt that he’s seen so much. He also had a very nurturing relationship with his dad.


Pamela August 11, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I love this. I would read Hrair’s memoir. And I would read yours too.


Wolf Pascoe August 12, 2011 at 12:20 am

Thanks for visiting, Pamela. And I yours.


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