Whenever I’m missing Yerevan, I can just drive 20 minutes to Glendale. It definitely doesn’t beat the real thing, but asking for the “hashiv” at Raffi’s Kebob or hearing Armenian in Starbucks is fun. My mom told me about an Armenian facialist named Shnorik, who works at The Nail Forum in Glendale, and insisted that I go see her. Both for the amazing European facial and also because she and my mom go way back. Apparently some 20 years ago, Shnorik (who goes by Grace) visited San Francisco via Hamazkayin (she was previously a writer/poet/actor) and my mom played tour guide for her and her group. By some stroke of serendipity, my mom recently went in for a facial while she was in Glendale and reconnected with Shnorik.
Besides her on-point facial skills, with each story Shnorik told as she massaged my face, she took me right back to Armenia. In a nutshell, she was born in Iran but her family moved to Armenia in 1988. In 1992, they emigrated to the US, but Shnorik was resistant. She loved her country and didn’t want to leave. When she arrived in Glendale in her late 20s, she experienced depression for a long time, longing for that soulful and cultural experience that Armenia provides on a very real level. Although she’s fully acclimated to America now, Shnorik still deeply misses those true connections she left behind. And so this year, she and her husband (also a writer who she married 7 years ago when they serendipitously met in LA after losing touch in Armenia) visited Yerevan together — one thing she noted is that the city had changed drastically since Soviet times. In particular, she said the caliber of people isn’t the same since the intellectual class fled the country.
One story Shnorik shared really highlights what I love about Armenia: her husband had generously given $200 to a family friend to help him out and in turn had been asked to be godfather for his child’s baptism. While at their house, Shnorik noticed a Murano glass vase in the living room and complimented it, telling them that it originated from Italy. Upon leaving, the family wrapped the vase and gifted it to Shnorik. They barely had money to put food on the table, Shnorik recalls, but they were so generous in giving their precious vase away in such a heartfelt way. ❤
If you’re in the Glendale area and in need of a facial, I highly recommend seeing Shnorik (ask for Grace). Then stop by Glendale Market and Deli, like I did (the Lebni sub is yum!), and have yourself a truly Armenian experience.