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Angelenos Bask in Winter Sun : On a Lazy Saturday, Fun and Games Make Living Easy

January 13, 1986|BEVERLY BEYETTE | Times Staff Writer

Saturday, and the living was easy. As Los Angeles sizzled (a record 87 at Civic Center) Jerry Elliott and Robert Eckert tended their tiny plot at Ocean View Farms, a seven-acre hillside communal garden in Mar Vista, pausing now and then to cool off and to survey the world beyond the vegetables and berries. Below, white sails were specks on a blue sea and, to the east, patches of snow clung to the roof of the San Gabriel Mountains.

This, concluded Eckert, taking it all in with a satisfied sweep of his head, is what Los Angeles is all about.

A Plot for Apartment Dwellers

Both Elliott, a computer software designer who retired 10 years ago at 47 to enjoy the good life--"When I'm 65, I'll get a job," he reasoned--and Eckert, 57, head of acquisitions for UCLA's University Research Library, are apartment dwellers, and it's hard to grow vegetables on a Westside balcony.

So, after a year on a waiting list, they had just become tenants of a 15-by-16-foot plot of city land for which they pay $3 for communal association membership and $18 a year for water. They're novice farmers, but on this day, they agreed, the only unpleasant surprise had been the small army of snails that had been occupying their land.

A fence away, Monika Sikora, her face shielded from the wicked sun by a broad straw hat, the knees of her white coveralls smeared with moist earth, was struggling with a little surprise of her own--rotting wooden stakes driven deep into the ground by her plot's previous tenant.

Sikora, who explained that in "real life" she lives in West Los Angeles and helps manage the Century Plaza Towers twin office buildings, tugged futilely at the remnants of one of the stakes and concluded, "I think he was trying to go to China."

It seemed much too hot to be working so hard.

Their planting done, Elliott and Eckert intend to "come here to sit down and watch things grow." They had planted squash, zucchini and a border of marigolds "to discourage the bugs." Also planted in their garden is a long white bench, for sitting and watching things grow. "Come back in the summer and see if anything's blooming," said Eckert, helping load the gardeners' gear into the trunk of Elliott's top-down 1964 white Buick Electra.

In Santa Monica's Douglas Park, Shane Mochizuki and his pals queued up to take determined whacks at a rainbow pinata that hung from a shade tree. Shane was celebrating his fourth birthday and his mother, Sheri, was celebrating sunshine. With 30 preschoolers and parents on the guest list, apartment dweller Mochizuki had had to do a lot of positive thinking through last weekend's rains.

Nearby, 82-year-old Fritz Cattolico and friends were warming up at midday for a game of lawn bowling. Cattolico, who came here from Italy and was once a men's clothing designer in Beverly Hills ("I did Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, a lot of producers") was nattily turned out in spotless white Bermuda shorts and knee socks.

Bowling on Grass

Black bowls were being rolled slowly over the closely clipped lawn, coming to rest near the small white ball called the "jack." The game is a bit like horseshoes--the object is to position your bowls closer to the jack than your opponent's and thus accumulate points.

The fun and games were a bit less restrained at the far end of the park, where youngsters raced Big Wheel tricycles in a concrete oval that once was a pond, then abandoned the trikes to climb up things, slide down things and crawl through things. On blankets spread on the grass, their parents soaked up the January sun.

Gladys Hague, felt hat planted firmly on her head, fleece-lined coat over one arm, checked in at LAX in mid-afternoon, bound for Calgary, Canada, after a three-week visit with her daughter, Cynthia Allen of Encino, and her family.

The weather report from Raymond, Alberta, her hometown, was mixed. "It was 52 yesterday," said Hague, explaining that "they're having a Chinook wind," making it unseasonably warm. "But they're expecting cold weather again. In November it was 35 below."

At the next counter vacationers Carmella and Charles Anderson chose seats for their return flight to Minneapolis. Her white slacks and palm frond hat with perky flower were something of a last hurrah. At home, she said, "It's above freezing, which is amazing."

The Andersons, first-time visitors to Los Angeles, had been taking the sun on a seven-day cruise to Mexico. Their send-off committee at LAX was the Nguyen family of Burbank, Vietnamese immigrants who'd been sponsored in this country by the Andersons' church, Hopkins United Methodist in Minnesota.

Late in the afternoon, at the Baldwin Hills State Recreation Area, Joe Fair, a mechanic, and his friend Bobby Tanner, a school crossing guard, pulled their strings of catfish, five each, the legal limit, from the man-made lake and headed home.

The lake is stocked and anyone with a rod and reel and a good supply of mealworms and night crawlers is apt to do well on a day like Saturday. Fair's son Joel, 15, had also hooked five. There would be fried catfish for dinner.

Joe Fair comes just about every Saturday to fish and only rarely is he disappointed. He smiled and said, "I was down here last Saturday but I didn't catch anything. I guess it was just too cold."

For the record, Jan. 4 in Los Angeles had been a gloomy sort of day in which the mercury never got above the 70-degree mark. Up Gladys Hague's way, that would be a heat wave.

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