Oscar the Grouch Was My Landlord…Until He Died

While I was living in an Armenian enclave near Boston, this happened: A Turkish-American jeweler with a shop in Somerville was driving his car somewhere around Medford, and was ambushed. Several bullets were fired into his car, killing him and totally ruining the Cadillac. The Armenians partied, and the secret organization of assassins took credit.

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0 thoughts on “Oscar the Grouch Was My Landlord…Until He Died

  1. Wow — Greg, I lived in Watertown from 1981 through 1991, and for the last few years, my husband and I rented half a duplex from an elderly Armenian lady who survived the genocide of 1915.

    I also remember the similar shooting of an honorary Turkish consul in East Cambridge some time during my Boston-area years (1974-1991.)

  2. New England Bob: I have no clue what you are talkinga bout…

    Julie: I lived on Lawn Street. It was right at the Cambridge/Watertown/Belmont border, just a block south of Fresh Pond. (But in Cambridge). Just north of Thingvalla Street, which was the location of the old Viking Meeting Place, back before the pilgrims and stuff.

    The house I lived in burned (that’s why I moved out) but was probably rebuilt. A strange guy named Danny was always on the front steps. I’m sure there were dozens of Armenian genocide survivors renting apartments in the neighborhood!

    Were you at the MCZ and how come I did not know you?

  3. You handled Oscar’s last existential fears well, Greg. I don’t know how you could have done better. (I had similar experiences long ago as an ambulance attendant …) No one hurt, everyone helped. Mercy epitomized.

    And yet, I read your “innocent” little story tonight to someone I care for â?? someone who’s far from being a dummy when it comes to navigating life’s practical challenges â?? and he stunned me by asserting â?? categorically â?? that lying to a dying person is never right. Or more precisely, that making a promise you couldn’t keep … or maybe it was not actually keeping it [just imagine KEEPING IT: Was my friend for real??] … I’m not totally clear on which â?? was morally wrong. (Strongly implied but not stated was the logical conclusion: you will end up as one well-toasted marshmellow in Mephistophele’s mid-21st-century Grand Weenie Roast.) Don’t people who think in moral absolutes realize that the world of multifaceted human relationships they unthinkingly inhabit would grind to a truly apocalyptic halt if their credos were universally implemented? Does one really need college-level philosophy to argue as to whether it’s ethically wrong or right to out the Jews in your apartment building when the Schutzstaffel come calling?

    It’s interesting, isn’t it, the reactions a seemingly light, innocent story can evoke? And “funny” in an unintended way when the punchline to “Oscar the Grouch ..” unleashes a moral argument. Sigh … I suppose there is no such thing as inveterately innocent communication between two primates.

    All this makes me think the following: I’m in no condition to opine on how much of Anthropology training in general is wasted. (Let the professorial engineers of educational requirements tackle that one.) What I will say is that with each passing day of my life I grow prouder of my parent discipline. Anthropology teaches (of course one must always add the caveat “SHOULD” teach) critical thinking, skepticism, differences between major disciplinary modes of thinking, nuanced thinking, contextual morality (a less loaded term than the unjustly maligned “moral relativism”), and needless to say in your case, how to appropriately negotiate the disparate worlds of the African bush, Harvard Behavioral Biology teaching sections, and Oscar the Grouch. Now I’m sure we both sometimes regret not being able to read the immortal mathematical treatises or possess more than a cartoon understanding of quantum mechanics; but the folks I’ve known at Harvard who CAN do the latter can’t tie their shoes. So surely there’s a lot to be proud of vis-a-vis our mastery of the higgledy-piggledy academic invention called “Anthropology”!

  4. Joe: Thanks for the thoughts. Maybe the story wasn’t so innocent. It’s good that it invoked some conflict. Your friend will come down from this with some new understanding.

    Consider the possibility of a guy … a grouch … who is is embedded in a tight ethnic community, and meanwhile complains about everything a particular person does, and only barely knows said person who happens to be there when he dies. The grouch says something. Even without knowing what the thing he says is, you can define a number of possible limits for what is reasonable, expectable, sane.

    Like: “Bring Danny over here, I want to say good buy for him.” or “I think I left the lights on in the car, please ask my wife to turn them off” would be sane. “I never mentioned this, but I was once abducted by aliens and my son is actually the spawn of Martians” or “will you, guy I hate, take care of my family forever” … insane.

    Also, another thing is exposed here. You know me well enough to know that I’m not a total asshole. Your friend does not. People are generally easy to judge those they don’t know and to seek nuances or alternative understandings of those they do.

    And yes, I do agree with your theory that we anthropologists are generally the preferable sort to get stuck on a remote deserted island with!

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