Occasionally, I find myself wanting to share people from my life. It’s what I call my Portrait of a Life Well Lived series. Anyone who has taken a class with me or even glanced at my book ‘Quick, Where’s My Cape?’ will know we are ALL constantly benefiting from those who have done things right. This is a eulogy I wrote for a man who taught me more than most.
Big, you ask? Yes, Sarkis. Inshallah, Sarkis. Habibi, Sarkis. Sarkis, my friend was (and always will be) a man of enormous stature. I met Sarkis when I was sixteen. Friends who had been up all night spoke with reverence of the morning meal they’d found in a little corner of Evanston, and the man there who did wonders with eggs and sausage at 5 am. Soon afterwards, I made my own pilgrimage up to this truck-stop cafe. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Like most north shore kids, I suspect, I was unprepared for the great burst of hospitality that greeted me when I crossed that threshold. “Come. Sit. Eat some food, you look hungry. Don’t worry, we feed you here. We feed everybody.” And so he did. For the next several years, all through high school and most of college, I returned to that diner countless times and feasted on so much more than eggs and sausage.
To understand the magic of Sarkis, you have to know what a fish-out-of-water he was in our town. The north shore is place not known for hospitality. In that day, it featured an almost oppressive level of social conservatism. It was a rich, old-money enclave of everything stoic and stultifying. A place where presidents and heads of state would overnight or hold hefty fundraisers. A place where blacks were servants and Mexicans were dishwashers – so the fact that this penniless Armenian immigrant chose this place to set up shop remains, for me, one of God’s great cosmic pranks. (more…)