Last week I was at J.F.K., shivering my way into a taxi, en route to Park Slope. Relieved to be heading home, I decided not to plug in my headphones and talk to Carl, the driver, instead.
I gave him my address. We talked about the weather. He asked where I was from. Somehow we got around to my parents living in Los Angeles.
Carl: “No kidding. I used to live out there. There’s a big Armenian population over in Glendale.”
Me: “Wait, you’re Armenian? I’m Armenian. Well, 25 percent. My mom’s last name is Tutelian.” (Armenian names typically end in “ian.”)
Carl: “My man!” He thrust his hand in my direction for a shake. “Bakalian, that’s my name.”
The conversation immediately steered toward all things Armenian, especially food. I mentioned that I loved lahmajun, a thin-crusted “Armenian pizza” with minced lamb and spices. Carl moaned, “Ahhhh, lahmaJUN! When was the last time you had some good lahmajun?”
“Not for a long while,” I said.
“Well you’re not going find it in Brooklyn,” Carl declared. “Massis in Sunnyside is it. I can bring you some.”
Carl: “Yeah, seriously!”
Fast forward five days. My phone rings.
“Come down and meet me on the corner,” said the voice. “I’m in a hurry.”
I sprinted down and rushed over to Carl’s car. The trunk is open. He pulled out two dozen lahmajun and handed them to me.
“This is my Armenian Christmas gift to you,” he said. “I gotta run.”
I could barely utter “thank you” before he got in his car and drove away. Merry Christmas, Carl.
"The New York Times," December 25, 2013