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AROUND THE FOOTHILLS BY DOUG SMITH

Bad Timing for a Vacation, Good Timing for Life in General

March 07, 1991|DOUG SMITH

Timing is everything in human affairs, a truth that harassed me last week while I was away, allegedly at home on vacation.

My absence from work was self-serving. I had planned to get some rest and relaxation through the things one does in spring: tilling the soil, pruning away the past year's growth and planting annual color, in short, to rejuvenate my private visual world.

The trouble started Wednesday of the week before. I got a call from Shirley Seeley, executive director of the Glendale Symphony Orchestra Assn. Expressing herself directly, as she always does, Seeley begged me to attend the concert Friday at which three-time Oscar winner Marvin Hamlisch, composer of the music for "The Way We Were," would discourse upon his music and play it on the piano.

I've known Seeley for 10 years as the leader of a group of women who dedicate their lives wholly to Glendale's oldest and still most vital social institution. I'd never let her beg.

The truth is, I knew I would enjoy the concert. I just didn't see how I would have time to write anything about it.

Then I got a call from Mark Krikorian, one of the ubiquitous sons of John Krikorian, who publishes Business Life, a magazine about business in the foothill cities.

He asked if I would be attending the Sunday opening of the Armenian American Chamber of Commerce near Beverly Hills.

Knowing that I would have no time to write about that, either, I accepted anyway, hoping to learn why the Armenian American Chamber of Commerce would be on the Westside when the Armenian community fans north from Hollywood to Glendale and the valleys.

Next, an officer from the Los Angeles Police Department's Northeast Division on San Fernando Road called. It was an invitation to a going-away party for the commanding officer Monday at Lawry's California Center.

That was a must. I had spent four hours with Capt. Keith Bushey on New Year's Eve, patrolling the streets of Northeast Los Angeles. It was a quiet night, so we had time to talk. Bushey, I learned, is well-read and articulate, but also a warrior. He told me that he was also an officer in the Marine reserve and had just dispatched a unit to the Persian Gulf. He hoped to be called up himself so he could do his part in the war, which would be parachuting as a forward spotter to call in artillery fire.

His timing wasn't perfect either. He was called to duty on the third day of a four-day war. But he was ready to go wherever they needed him.

Though the first three days of my vacation were in tatters, I can't say I regretted a moment.

Hamlisch, tall and gangly in a tuxedo, turned out to be witty as well as musical. At one point, he had the whole Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in stitches by improvising songs built around phrases thrown out by the audience.

For example, when offered, "They All Came to See Me," he sang:

Would it be Gay Paris?

Would it be sunny Spain?

Would it be New York?

Never New York, I know.

Would it be in Ooo-Ohio?

Finally, someone said, 'I know where to go.'

They all came to Simi Valley.

Maybe it wasn't poetry, but it seemed fun, and worked perfectly with the tune, which I couldn't possibly describe.

The opening of the first Chamber of Commerce in America from a Soviet country was a heavier affair.

Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky dropped by, as did Glendale Mayor Larry Zarian, who is distantly Armenian.

Soon there was a crush of people, many of whom didn't know each other any more than they knew me.

Live Armenian music and a table of delicacies got things rolling.

I met quite a few Westside Armenians, but the answer to my question, I was told, was that in the capitals of commerce, Robertson Boulevard still sells better than Brand.

The next day, Lawry's was enchanting as always, and the lunch for Bushey brought together a high-spirited mix of community people. I sat with a former sheriff's deputy who is now security director at Occidental College, the owner of the beer distributorship next to the police station, the leader of the Friends of the Atwater Village Library and a colleague from Northeast Newspapers.

Bushey spoke briefly, thanking all present as friends and partners.

He quoted from the 20 principles of police management the one that says: "The Police Department is the community and the community is the Police Department."

"I can't think of any place that more clearly exemplifies that than the Northeast," he said.

Having thus done my duty, I thought that I could head into the fields knowing that even if I hadn't shared the week's events with the readers, at least I had kept in touch.

On Wednesday, of course, it rained violently and my fields turned to mud. I stood at a window cursing my luck. Imagine cursing the rain after four years of drought! That's what bad timing will do.

In between rainstorms, I planted marigolds and primulas in the goo. Their future doesn't look bright.

But I think it's time to step back and contemplate the good timing of my life in general.

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