We were up and out of the house early to catch an 8 a.m. flight from Chicago O’Hare to Boston. We were excited to return to New England and the AYF Olympics.
We boarded the plane and had our first experiences worthy of relating. I was wearing an Armenia ball cap but forgot I was wearing. A lady looked at me and said, “Armenia. Fun.” I wondered how she knew. I was clearly up too late packing. My wife Judy had even better encounters. She was wearing a lovely AYF pendant she had bought at the 1971 Olympics that was the handiwork of the Ralph Rafaelian or Varkis Markarian of Providence. The stewardess stopped, looked and asked, “Is that your family coat of arms?” Well, in a way it is, for all of us. A group of heavily tattooed young women stopped to ooh and aah at her pendant. One of them said, “We are all big Harry Potter fans and love your Harry Potter jewelry.” This last one made us wonder if Quidditch was now part of the Olympic events.
We got to Boston on-time. The weather was beautiful. After a one-hour wait for our rental car, we enjoyed a leisurely drive with minimal traffic. We were hungry and George’s Coney Island caught our eye, so we GPS-ed our way there. As soon as we stepped foot into the place, we just knew it had to be Worcester classic. The menu was minimal and what you might expect from Coney Island 50 years ago. Well, maybe longer. It was established in 1918. While clean, it looked like nothing had changed in all that time except the rich patina that graced the wood walled booths. The food was really good. Upon thumbing through this year’s AYF Olympics Ad Book, I was delighted to see a full-page ad from George’s. Nancy Arvangian Brown told me that owner Kathryn Tsandikos was a good friend. She was a bridesmaid in Nancy’s wedding. How cool.
Quite appropriately, the first people we saw upon arriving to the hotel were Kenar Charchaflian and Nareg Mkrtschjan. To me, Kenar is the heart and soul of the Worcester AYF. It is a great to see how proud she is to see the Olympics in Worcester again. We also saw Rosemary Alashaian. She told us that she was excited that all her grandchildren would be at the Olympics.
I took a seat in a chair in the corner of the lobby. As people trickled in, they would stop and chat with me. In a lull, I was thinking of past Olympics, and I thought of my father’s first cousin Olympic King John Baronian, who had roots in Worcester. He would take a seat in the corner of the lobby and hold court. He would always wear slacks and a light blue or white cabana shirt. I realized I was wearing a cabana shirt and kind of doing the same thing as Uncle John, as I called him. It was a moment of mixed emotions. The first was, “Oh, my God…I am an old guy” as John did this in his later years. More so, I feel a lot of nostalgia for those great AYF-ers that have passed. I should be so lucky to be like Uncle John.
Carol Jaffarian related a perfect AYF story. One year in her AYF days, the AYF Convention was going to be held in Boston. Larry Ovian encouraged her to be a delegate with him representing Worcester. She told Larry, “Oh I don’t know. I have no one to stay with.” Larry responded, “Don’t worry about it. You will meet someone to room with there, and you will become lifelong friends.” Well, that is exactly what happened. Carol met Denise Lansing from Racine, and they became lifelong friends.
I met up with Mark Manuelian of the Governing Body. He’s running athletics on the Worcester Steering Committee. I salute these kinds of alumni who work tirelessly and so effectively for this great organization.
While it was relatively quiet as most Thursdays are at the AYF Olympics, it was so good to renew friendships with everyone I talked to.
It’s now Friday, and the games and festivities begin in earnest. Golf and tennis have early starts at 8 a.m.; swimming starts at 4 p.m. Later in the evening, it is the Alumni Night with the Norkef Ensemble and the AYF Gala and Hookup with the Yerakouyn Band. I won’t be sitting in the lobby tomorrow.