10 February 2014

Finding Dad in Arizona

Panorama of the Tempe Center for the Performing Arts and the beautiful bridge and lake walk
The flaming saganaki!
We just got home from a whirlwind trip to Arizona!  We left on Friday and drove through to Tempe, which is about 6 hours away, and where my nephew and godson Varoujan lives while working on his masters at ASU.  We traveled to Arizona for the annual Tucson Bead, Gem, and Mineral Show. This is a major event that takes place every year in February.  And I've wanted to attend this show for many years but inevitably something would always come up, and we wouldn't be able to go.  But this year, I guess the stars lined up and both Neddy and I were able to get off work.  The show is such a big event that finding a hotel room without signing off on your first born is unheard of.  Tucson is about and hour or so's drive from Tempe, so we decided to get a room there. Plus, it was nice to be near my nephew and get some time in together.  So Friday night we were able to walk around the village near ASU and go out to a Greek place for dinner.
The beautiful Phoenix Library...entire back wall is a
panoramic view of the city
We got to experience something called a "flaming saganaki"....some flaming cheese that Var and Neddy ordered.  We got to see the studio where Varouj works on his architectural projects  And we got to hear about some of the cool things that he and his team are working on in the Utah desert.  And then the added bonus of the weekend was that Var was able to join us on Saturday and come to the show with us.

So Saturday morning, before we headed out to Tucson, Varouj took us to the Phoenix library which was just this amazing building...beautiful, modern but still organic in shape.  I can't do it any justice in describing it, but here are the photos.  It was really an architectural masterpiece that was so inviting that it just made you want to use the space.  There was a special section for teens only, and when we walked through I noticed that kids could check out musical instruments if they wanted to play.  Isn't that a cool idea?  The space was amazing. I noticed this about Arizona architecture:  they utilize the natural light and the position of the sun to either light, or cast shadows on the structures.  So well thought out.

Release the Fear - sculpture made of
weapons of violence
On the way out to Tucson, we passed this sculpture on a median.  It looks like the shape of a modernistic person with their hands up in the air. Kind of in a pose of rejoicing.  Varouj told us that the entire sculpture, from the base to the figure, was created with weapons used in violent acts collected throughout Arizona.  It's an 8 ton statue, and the base has the actual weapons fused to it, and it looks like the statue is rising up from the base.  It's called "Release the Fear".  The artist is Robert John Miley, and artist who promotes the power of education and art to combat violence.  I thought it was so powerful and beautifully done. Click on the link and you can read more about it.  But here's a photo.

Beautiful Beads from Afghanistan
Checking out the handmade beads 
After that we headed on the I-10 toward Tucson.  I had no idea what to expect.  Only that it was supposed to be the end-all/ be-all bead show.  And it was. And then some.  The show is spread out all over Tucson. They even had shuttles that will take you from location to location.  We started off at the bead show which was in a large hotel.  Not only were the meeting rooms, ball rooms and outside areas filled with vendors, but so were all the hotel rooms on the first floor.  Imagine walking down a hotel corridor, and each room is a different vendor with beads, jewelry making supplies, finished pieces, or findings. I was able to get some new tools for working with the metal clays that I use for my pomegranates.  I learned some new techniques. Saw some amazing handmade beads, and stocked up on supplies from vendors that I usually only do business with online.  I know I had no idea that it would ever be this big of an event.

My weakness - beautiful
ethic beads from Africa
is it a plant? Is it a horn?
It's a fossil!
All this and it was only the first location. When you check in at the bead show, they give you a big event magazine and in there are not only all the vendors, but a map of all the locations in the city where there are more vendors/more venues.  I was looking up the location of the next bead show location, but I had already spent a lot.  I know myself well enough to know that if I went to the bead show, I'd definitely be buying stuff buying MORE stuff than I already did! There were a lot of locations for minerals and gems.  I thought the guys would like to go to the gem and mineral show.  And boy was I wrong.  It wasn't just the guys that enjoyed that part.
Beautiful amethyst crystals
I was totally blown away by it. There were ten foot high quartz crystals, 4-5 foot tall geodes filled with beautiful amethysts, and fossils that were millions of years old.  I was really amazed by a fossilized flower - something so delicate - preserved for millions of years. You could see the seeds, stems and petals and they were all preserved in stone.  All this was taking place under huge tents in vacant parking lots (that were hardly vacant).  I'm talking about huge tents...like the kind you see in revival meetings.  Like a big top.  There were all kinds of gemstones, rocks...polished and unpolished, turquoise from various mines, mounds of magnetic hematite...and meteorites.  There was a meteorite on display that was the size of a canteloupe. Neddy told me to pick it up.  I took my one hand and tried lifting, no way.  It was over 30 points.  Just solid metal.  My husband Ned, being an alien himself, was so excited to find such a great display of meteories.   It was all really interesting.  and so were the people that were there.  We saw a few that looked like they had come straight from Burning Man (maybe they had!)  And again, this was just at
The back wall of the Phoenix library
this second location.   Imagine 20-30 locations all around the city, and the show is going on for two weeks. There's no way that you could cover it all in one day, let alone during a 2-3 day weekend.  Anyway...it was such a cool thing to do, and we'd definitely like to go back and try it again...but stay longer and see more. As cool as it was, it still wasn't the BEST  part of the weekend.

The best part of the weekend was spending time with my nephew.  It was a rare time spent since when he's back in L.A., we see one another at church and family functions, but not like this past weekend where we got a chance to talk, watch the Olympics, eat, "oo and aah" over beads, walk and enjoy the day together. And I got a chance to appreciate what an amazing guy he really is.

My ever so talented nephew and godson, Varouj and me
It was a full weekend.  And Ned and I really had a great visit, and we were talking about it on the drive home.  The three of us had spent a beautiful morning walking by the river in Tempe, sunny but cold and windy.  Just the type of day that my father would have loved.  Today is the 23rd anniversary of my father's passing.  It's really hard to believe that so much time has gone by.  My father was only 58 when he died.  My daughter Ani was 3, my son Nareg was 9.  My nephew's Varoujan and Sevan, 4 and 2, I think.   My nephew Varoujan is my father's namesake.  This weekend, I got to see first hand that my father still lives on through my nephew.  It's not that he looks anything at all like my father.  But Var is incredibly talented, as was my dad.  My nephew shares my father's musical ability.  Babajan was a self-taught violin player.  He worked his way through pharmacy school playing gypsy violin in a restaurant.  But he didn't stop at the violin.  He could pretty much play whatever instrument came his way.  Mandolin, oud, doudouk, kemancheh.  Our home was always filled with music.  My nephew shares this musical ability.  Piano, self taught on clarinet so well that he played in the USC marching band, guitar, doudouk, oud, and he accompanies our church choir for the badarak. I wish I could do that.

But that's not the only similarity.  It's the creativity.  I saw it in Varoujan this weekend.  He is working on his
This is the fossilized flower I was telling you about.
Masters in Architecture.  As he was showing us the bridge at the Tempe Center for the Performing Arts, the river that runs next to it, the artistry of the design, I could feel my dad there with us...and he was beaming with pride.  My father was very much in tune to his surroundings, just like my nephew.  I remember walks with my father where he would notice the quality of light, the colors of the environment around us.  And there we were this morning on a walk, and taking in the surroundings, and Varoujan commented the way the water poured off the fountain, the colors, the deliberateness of the design.  Very Babajan-esque.

As a pharmacist, his job didn't allow him the creativity that he needed.  So after work he would find his creative release through music usually, or other projects.  I remember going to the bead store with him when I was a kid.  If my mom needed the perfect necklace to complement her outfit, he would make it for her. When my mother bought my dad a book on oriental rugs, he created a mini loom and learned the knotting techniques and wove mini versions of kilims in our kitchen.  Varoujan is very much like that.  He's a skilled woodworker, a builder, and has vision to see in his mind the way the completed outcome will turn out.  Like the zeroscape he and my sister in law created in their front yard replacing the lawn with native, drought tolerant plants (and making look great!)  Which is not always easy.
Walking the bridge in Tempe with Var and Neddy
My father's pride and joy were his grandchildren.  He saw only 4 of the 8 grandchildren that he and Mamajan share.  And because he died so young, he didn't get to see how beautifully they have grown up.  I always feel so sad that my children didn't get to know Babajan for the wonderful  grandfather he was.  And sad that they were deprived of the fun, the laughter, the music, the creativity that he brought to our family.  I can feel my dad at different times throughout the year, namely when we have important family events.  And then when weekends like this happen, I realize that he is still very much with us. And he lives on through his children and grandchildren.   I can feel his presence and I can also feel his pride of his grandchildren, and I know his spirit walks with them all.

On this 23rd anniversary of Babajan's passing, I'd like to share something he taught me.
The 10 foot quartz crystal
In my old home, I had it painted on the wall of my kitchen, and I think I'll paint it in my entry way.  He said, "Always buy lemonade from children; feed the homeless, and tip street musicians."  That's the kid of guy my dad was: sensitive to children and the dreams that they have; compassionate to those that are not fortunate enough to have the home and family that he had; and in tune to the artists of the world that make our lives more beautiful.

I miss you dad!  And I'm proud of you Varouj!  Thank you for sharing yourself with us this weekend - both of you!!


Sonig said...

Thank you for sharing your unforgettable memories of your dad. It's a true blessing that he's re-living through Varoujan.

Bruce Burr said...

as always so well thought out and well written. thanks for sharing!