FEATURE

Los Angeles Times | Glendale News-Press | 2004 October 4

No matter how far away, how long ago

This is the second of two parts

Greg pushed forward the slender tires on his wheelchair as he sped out
of his apartment on Louise Street. His prosthetic legs had gone in for
repair the day before. It would be a few weeks before he would have
them back. It was a good opportunity for him to get his arms back in
shape; he'd been slacking off at the gym.

He turned the corner quickly onto Glenoaks Boulevard, feeling the
centrifugal forces pushing him away from the seat. As he came out of
the sharp curve, his upper body aligned back again with the
wheelchair. He and his ride were headed in the same direction once
more.

It was 0800 on a Friday. Greg's humble breakfast was awaiting him at
Vaspurakan Pastry on the corner of Jackson Street and Glenoaks. It was
owned by his longtime friends, the Petrossians. He had met the
middle-aged couple, Sahak and Carmella, during his Marine assignment
in Baghdad.

---

Just that morning, Greg had heard the news on his radio about the last
of the American forces evacuating Baghdad on board the C-17
Globemaster III Air Force transport aircrafts. No one, not even the
most outspoken anti-war activists, had thought the conflict in Iraq
would last through 2008. The Iraqi Islamic Liberation Front had
hoisted the new green-and-black flag on what remained of the
Presidential Palace. With the help of the newly rejuvenated Russian
Federation, the neighboring fundamentalists in Iran as well as the
Mukhabarat (secret service) in Syria, they had been able to declare
the south of Iraq a "Unified Islamic Republic." Shiite and Sunni
militants had become allies in a rare show of solidarity. And that's
perhaps what the term "unified" referred to.

Recent history was full of state names with contradicting
adjectives. As in the word "democratic" in the now defunct German
Democratic Republic (East Germany), the terms "people's and
democratic" in the name "People's Democratic Republic of Korea" (North
Korea), or the ornamental titles of "union, socialist and republics"
of the late Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, what the new "Unified
Republic" lacked most was unity.

In the north, Iraqi Kurds, with the help of the freshly restructured
Turkish Federal Republic (TFR), had declared "Northern Mesopotamia" a
member state of the Turkish "federal" state. Here too, "federal" was
an afterthought aimed at legitimizing the annexation of northern Iraq
as well as northern Cyprus.

It was time to bring the American youngsters back home to their
families.

-- Greg arrived at Vaspurakan Pastry; he knocked on the glass window
and enthusiastically waved at Sahak. Greg avoided going in; it was a
bit of a hassle to maneuver around the tightly packed tables and
chairs.

"Good morning! My usual, please?" Sahak gave Greg his customary
informal military salute by raising his right hand to his forehead;
Greg knew he'd been acknowledged.

"Carmella, Greguh hos eh." ("Carmella, Greg is here." in Armenian).

Within the 10 minute mark, Carmella was on her way out with a tray
carrying Greg's favorite morning goodies, the coffee and the sweet
pagharj, a type of pastry from the southeast corner of Asia Minor.

As Carmella left the pastry shop's grounds and entered into the
sidewalk, a low flying Raven 44 IV news helicopter appeared in the
Glendale skies. The chopper's noise had effortlessly drowned the
sounds of the early morning traffic.

"plplplplplpplplplplpl....."

While Greg turned his wheelchair around to look up in the sky, another
set of sounds interrupted the chopper. Metal and glass had suddenly
come into contact with the concrete sidewalk.

Carmella had dropped the tray. Her jittery nerves had been
stunned. She was on her knees; her ears were covered with her hands.

"It's OK, Mrs. Carmella; it's OK. It's over; the war is really
over. It's just a news chopper."

Carmella continued to keep her ears protected and began shaking her
head.

---

It was the evening of July 5. The hazel-eyed Mary had just moved into
her beautiful house in the Glendale hills.

She was upstairs in the master bedroom folding the kids' laundry. Her
therapeutic folding routine was enriched by a view of the backyard
wildlife. A young deer had been paying them unannounced visits. Mary
had a delicate smile on her face. It was at times like this she knew
she had finally found peace. Beirut's St. George neighborhood seemed
so far away now, so did the years of civil war.

Her two children were playing video games and her husband was absorbed
in the History Channel.

Meanwhile, the neighbor's kids were busy smuggling a few unexploded
firecrackers out to the street for a belated finale to Independence
Day.

"Bang! Bang! Bang!" The backyard's fragile guest ran back up to the
hills in a swift turnaround and getaway. Simultaneously, Mary rushed
down the steps in a frenzy and grabbed ahold her children tightly.

"Are you OK, tsakoogs (children)."

"Mommy, are you crying?"

"No. No. I'm not. You can have tears in your eyes when you are happy
too, you know."

"Why are you happy, Mommy. It looks like you are crying."

"No baibees (my child), I am happy. I am happy I have you two..."

Patrick Azadian lives and works in Glendale. He is an identity and branding
consultant for the retail industry. Reach him at [email protected]
Reach the Glendale News-Press at [email protected]