Magazine article The American Conservative

Consort of the Onion Queen

Magazine article The American Conservative

Consort of the Onion Queen

Article excerpt

I am the First Man of Elba, New York, Onion Capital of the World, or so we claim, and who, really, is going to call us on it? The czarina, or technically town supervisor, of Elba, which borders my native Batavia, is my wife Lucine, whom I believe to be, since the retirement of Gov. George Deukmejian, the highest ranking Armenian-American elected official in America. Or at least she will be until the voters of California elect Cher to the U.S. Senate.

This is one of the first things you learn upon marrying an Armenian: the list. "Famous Armenians" isn't like drawing up a catalogue of "Famous Irish-Americans" or "Famous Jewish-Americans." You're not picking and choosing, selecting Pat Moynihan and Hank Greenberg but leaving John O'Hara and Neil Diamond for the next draft. "Famous Armenians" begins with the sad sentimental poet of Fresno, William Saroyan, and goes on to include the guy who played Mannix (Krikor Ohanian, aka Mike Connors), Cher Sarkisian, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, mogul Kirk Kerkorian, Andre Agassi, and, for baseball fans, Steve Bedrosian. Well, diasporans, add to your list Lucine Andonian Kauffman, town supervisor of Elba, New York, El Dorado of the mucklands.

She was appointed to fill the uncompleted term of her retired predecessor, but when Lucine had to run her first race, I took on the job of campaign manager, a post for which I had prepared a lifetime. Rudy can't fail, as they say, especially when the candidate is unopposed. Still, in order to minimize our vote, I had printed bumper stickers depicting onions against the colors of the Armenian flag and bearing the motto, "Ayo Gernank!" Antonio Villaraigosa had recently run for mayor of Los Angeles boasting "Si, se puede," or "Yes, we can," so I asked my California father-in-law how to say that in Armenian. We lost the Turk vote, but principle has its price.

My role model as first spouse has been Pat Nixon, not Hillary Clinton, especially if the phone rings at 3 a.m. because a road hasn't been plowed. I declined to adopt a social cause, disease, or a Just Say No campaign of my own, though one friend, mindful of his own affliction, urged the distribution of brown bracelets as part of an IBS awareness campaign. Opting, for once, for good taste, I just said no.

Lucine has largely and astutely ignored my advice on political matters. …

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