CK Garabed Still Going Strong after 25 Years

Time appears to be treating C.K. Garabed with the vitality of an energizer bunny.

After 25 years, his “Notebook” column in the pages of the Armenian Weekly is a welcome sight for sore eyes, destined to reflect a smile and give us food for thought.

It isn’t very often I get the opportunity to write about a “competing” columnist—not one who bids for my attention, but rather complements it.

 C.K. Garabed
C.K. Garabed

Such a writer is Garabed. Call him Uncle Garabed, C.K., Charlie, or Charles Kasbarian. Call him anything you wish as long as the term “venerable” is part of the nomenclature.

Hard to believe that both of us have been sharing the same page for a quarter century. From top to bottom, we make you laugh, think, squawk. With me, it’s been 45 years this year for the “Almanac,” which was launched in 1970. Garabed made us a duo in 1990.

Now, at age 88, find me another regular columnist anywhere that can measure up to that seniority. I might also maintain that perhaps his writing is what keeps him mobilized. It’s the best therapy that money can’t buy. No doctor can prescribe it.

Truth be told, I never read my column in print. Where did that typo come from? It wasn’t there when I casually edited the piece. So I leave it alone and read Garabed’s Notebook instead. Can’t recall the last time I ran across a typo in his writing. Certainly a tribute to good scrutiny by such an academic.

So what’s the secret to his longevity, and mine? Certainly no secret at all, provided you hit the right keys and don’t let your thoughts get ahead of you. A good dictionary and thesaurus come in handy. These days, we’ve got a built-in spell checker on our computers that helps matters considerably.

At a time when many columnists his age have retired, there seems to be no let-up from Garabed. Like clockwork, he brings you his worldly attributes. He’ll translate your name, bring you a word from his Persian dictionary, a trivia fact or two, along with a dose of nostalgia.

“My mother taught me the wrong way to tie my shoelaces. Instead of a square knot, I’d end up with a granny knot.”

He’ll offer up a view of the ages, a Japanese proverb, and quips from famous people. It’s all there in one tidy package, waiting to be digested.

Garabed presented his arts & letters to a gathering May 24 at the Armenian Museum of America in Watertown, joined by his family and friends. Assisting him was daughter Lucine Kasbarian, a notable writer and political cartoonist whose work is being featured in a new book. A son Son Antranig served as editor of the Armenian Weekly.

Suffice it to say that writing has been a Kasbarian family staple over these decades with no let-up in sight. Out of it have come editorials, columns, prose, cartoons, folk tales, and visual art.

He’s been the unequivocal raconteur of his time. There’s no telling what anecdote he’ll tell you next.

Garabed’s big day at the museum included not only his writings but an exhibition of his abstract watercolor paintings—its first display in New England. The striking pieces recall images from C.K.’s Armenian subconscious, crafted to permit viewers an interpretation of their own.

A thinking man’s panache is sometimes more effective than mere words on paper. For the last 40 years, Garabed has researched and written about the etymology of Armenian surnames.

He recently released an online publication called, “The Dikranagerd Vernacular Handbook.” It represents the culmination of decades of speaking and studying the dialect and unique expressions of his ancestors from that province of Western Armenia.

It’s nice to know there’s such a resource at your fingertips. More than once, I have taken it upon myself to clear up a dubious point with C.K. Not everything is found on the internet. With post haste, back comes the answer.

Could be the derivation of a name, a situation, or a little known fact. Usually what follows is an entire manuscript. There are certain matters I’ve shared with him over time. He’s returned the favor. That’s what writing buddies are all about. It’s pen pals without the pen.

There’s something to be said about writers who volunteer their work and invest their talent into our Armenian papers throughout the diaspora. We write to entertain and inform. We write to keep ourselves in sync.

We try to write stories no one else will get. A byline is not only a name but a motivating force. It gives us sustenance. And it gives our product the credibility it deserves.

Well done, Garabed. We love reading you!

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
Tom Vartabedian

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4 Comments

  1. Dear Mr. Kasbarian, God bless your mission and your Dear family members. All of you are wonderful people. BIG HUG from the Zerdelian family.

  2. Most appropriate tribute indeed to one of the most inquisitive living Armenian minds and invigorating thought leaders of our times. More power to you “Uncle Garabed”.

  3. Here in New Jersey we admiringly and respectfully refer to him as “Uncle Charlie”. He’s been a dynamic fixture here for decades! Most people know him for his academics and rightfully so, but did you know he has a phenomenal voice and has been in many concerts and theatrical productions, both Armenian and American? If you show the slightest interest, he will send you some of the most thought provoking and contrarian articles ever imagined. He is the person I always go to for anything relating to Armenians. The man is exceptionally well read and has never been shy about challenging the comments and/or actions of our community leaders. His notebook column is only the tip of the iceberg of what he is and what he represents for our community and all Armenians as well. It’s no surprise that his children are prolific contributors to the Armenian community as well.

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