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2006 JANUARY 14
Home is where you can walk
When I moved to California in my early teens, the vast distances I had to travel to reach just about anything seemed extraordinary. If I wanted to see a movie, go to the mall, or watch the 1978 soccer World Cup televised from Argentina in select theaters, I had to burn fossil fuel. At my age, it was either the bus, or a ride from mom in our brand new all-American V8 Chevy Malibu.

I had trouble identifying with my new hometown, Sacramento. Vast distances and abundant freeways instilled a sense of estrangement in me. Where did the city begin and end?

My vision of a city included a busy downtown, a place where residential and commercial areas were intertwined, and taking a walk at any time of the day was safe. Opting for refuge in the suburbs was completely alien to me. At the time, the closest I could come to getting that city feeling was a visit to Los Angeles downtown, which was synonymous with crime, desolation, litter and of course, long immigration lines formed as early as 6 a.m.

Nobody seemed to walk in my new hometown. Alienation of the individual from the city was the norm. How could I ever call a city home, if I spent most of my time indoors, in a car, or at a covered shopping mall? The sight and sounds of the city were absent from this equation.

When I moved to Glendale, I slowly re-discovered my version of what a city should feel like.

I made it a point to keep my residence and work close, and decided to walk to work sometimes.

On a crisp evening, when I walk back from work, my senses are all occupied. If it's dinner time, almost every house or apartment exudes an aroma of spices used in cooking homemade meals. Whether it's the sounds of real silverware and china, or the cracking of a game of backgammon, I am reminded that some of the best pleasures in life are simple.

After dinner, middle-aged women are on their power walks and kids ride their bicycles late at night. There is an unusual feeling of safety here, a phenomenon which we owe as much to our residents as our law enforcement officials.

Walking the tight streets, I witness the good as well as the not so good. The type of stuff you are bound to miss if you are committed to drive the Teutonic V12 for that short visit to the neighborhood 7-Eleven.

You see litter. The garbage we don't dispose in our own living rooms, but choose to dispense in the middle of our streets, the cigarette butts, which can cause death to local deer and pets, the empty Starbuck coffee cups, and, every now and then, an old oven, in front of an apartment complex.

You also see teenagers driving their cars at highway speeds in residential neighborhoods.

Their inexperience, as well as their desire to be "cool," makes them indifferent to the dangers ahead. But there is nothing cool about not being able to handle a car at high speeds if a child accidentally wanders into the street.

In addition to people, one of the things I've noticed about Glendale is the unusually high number of places for worship.

We've got them all, Presbyterian, Methodist, Evangelical, Baptist, Catholic, Armenian Apostolic, Jewish, Lutheran. It's no wonder many Americans of Armenian descent have chosen this city as their home. The land many have left behind is affectionately called an open-air museum of churches. Perhaps Armenian-Americans are sub-consciously searching for their lost ancient capital of Ani, a splendid "City of 1001 Churches." Coincidentally, Ani (of 961 AD) and Glendale also share similar numbers in population, as well as having the bad luck of being near earthquake faults.

Fortunately for Glendalians, we have the luxury of not neighboring the hostile armies of the Seljuks and the wandering Mongols.

No hometown is complete without family and friends. In addition to all the friendly senior ladies in my building who've called Glendale home for decades, a skip and a hop away are many of my cousins and their families. My grandmother, Naz, also lives nearby. As I pass in front of her apartment, there is always a surprise. I sometimes run into her great-grandchildren, Emil and Rafi, playing on the front lawn under their mom's supervision. Unfortunately, grandma suffers from Alzheimer's and will not fully experience her great-grandchildren grow up.

But, considering she's raised 10 children, she can probably use the break. I'd like to think she is actually not ill and is really putting us on to get away from all the responsibilities she's dutifully carried since she was a very young girl.

It reminds me, I've been a bad grandchild. I need to pay her a visit.


Il sito è curato dall'Arch. Vahé Vartanian e dal Dott. Enzo Mainardi;
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