Saturday, May 22, 2010

Here Comes There Goes You Know Who



[click to enlarge]


I can’t resist sharing this photograph of William Saroyan that my brother in Armenia passed along yesterday. It was taken in 1978 at someone’s home in Echmiadzin, not far from Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. Willie, as I mentioned in this post that features a picture of him with my father taken outside my childhood home, was my grandmother’s first cousin. A picture like this, coming out of nowhere, so to speak, is a great treasure. Everything about his face speaks of family on my father’s mother’s side — the lines and valleys and shadows and nose, the great gray mustache, the certainty, the melancholy, the anger. Seeing this, I am for a moment whole again, even though I have not been broken, even though I am an accumulation, a composite force, a blending of the wide and straight and narrow, of the solid and precipitous, of the fallen, defeated, and arrogant, of exhilaration and pain, of good and bad, and am to my own glory and detriment in love with the sorrow of myself, the sorrow that is my self, a self itself subject to reason, joy, and whim. Meanwhile, of course, it’s just a picture. You might not see it or feel it at all — as it should be. For you have your own fire to tend, your own story to tell.


Update:
As the Conversation continues, we cut to the camel chase.

14 comments:

RUDHI - Chance said...

To me he looks like a wise *Hell's Angel* if you don't mind, William! Great portrait of a strong personality!

William Michaelian said...

Yes, a Hell’s Angel on an old bicycle, his preferred mode of transportation....

all ways 11 o'clock said...

He seems of family and worry and hard work. He grounds me greatly.
Love this photogarph.

~robert.

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Robert. In my opinion, this casual shot captures far more than many photographers were able to manage. Still, if he’d had the chance, I wonder what Karsh would have done.

Janice said...

William I read with great interest the article on William Saroyan...he won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, which if I read the article right, he then refused!!! The photo of your father and William S. shows a very strong family resemblance. I also noticed that when you compare your photo with the one your brother so thoughtfully sent you of William S., that you both have such an intense look in your eyes! Were you named after him? I could go on and on but I will close here and let others comment with more. Wonderful and very interesting post!!!

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Janice! Growing up, I never did gather, and was never told, that I was named after him. And yet my father’s middle name was William — that is, when it wasn’t Harry, which is an anglicized corruption of his father’s Armenian name, Haroutiun, which means “resurrection.” Of course, where else would my grandmother have gotten the name. And yet, when I was born, or “hatched off a flat rock,” as my mother used to say, the story is that it took my parents some time to come up with the name William. But again, the name was already in the family via Saroyan, so I know that had to at least pass through their minds. And so ends my family name-recycling lesson.

Elisabeth said...

So it's in your blood, William, physically, racially, emotionally, intellectually and creatively.

This is both a wonderful photo and story - in part your story, your ancestry.

And the names, the Armenian names, the names that are at times anglicised. They live on.

It's about identity, life, death and connection. Thanks, William.

William Michaelian said...

Yes, Elisabeth, it’s about all of these things, even at those times when I feel as if the world were just invented, and I am a stranger in it. Perhaps especially then.

rahina q.h. said...

hey William, felt it... we all tend the same fire, we just forget soemtimes how interconnected we are and blogs and facebook simply bring all this to the surface.

RUDHI - Chance said...

Hey William - he was a big fish, a Mustang in writing I see! So you know, from where your *Pegasos-Wings* are coming ...

vazambam said...

A resemblance made even more remarkable by your commentary. The eyes have it!

lakeviewer said...

Love how you experience this photo, how you express the self.

Chocolat negro said...

Hello William,
it is " only " a picture as you say but a very beautiful and intense one. And pictures are moments. Thank you for sharing it.
Greetings from South-Africa

William Michaelian said...

Rahina, that they do, and I’m really grateful for it, and for the beautiful daily reminders on my web-travels, yours among them.

Rudhi, maybe that explains my wild mane....

Vassilis, a resemblance, I think, that shows most in my compulsion to gamble in my life and work. Glad you like this piece!

Lakeviewer, thanks for your kind assessment. The whole notion of self feels like such a fluid thing. Writing about it is like writing about a river — it changes before you’re done.

Greetings, Isabella, it’s nice to hear from you. The picture is intense, and it takes time to absorb all that’s there. It’s a moment that extends indefinitely.