AROUND LA WITH AVA – ROCKS, ROCK STARS, STAR ROCKS

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila

ROCKS, ROCK STARS, STAR ROCKS
by Ava Anttila

For some reason, my month has had a “rock” theme:

I think our fleeting existence on this earth has made mankind fascinated with rock and stone, the most permanent of visible elements.  Rituals throughout the ages have involved monuments, erections, and sacred stones.  Lovers of nature that we are, Finns even have a house of worship in a rock: Temppeliaukkio Kirkko in Helsinki.  The stones that heat our saunas are a source of inspiration (and perspiration) in our spiritual bathing ritual.  The granite of our homeland is a source of fascination and pride—as is our ‘stoic as a rock’ national personality!

Temppeliaukio Church

Temppeliaukio Church

Rock of Ages is often played at Memorial Services.  Not at Vivi Friedman’s Service, however.  There were small, smooth, black river rocks scattered among votive candles on white table-clothed tables leading toward the auditorium at Bergamot Station where a multitude of friends of Vivi Friedman gathered for her Memorial.   The house was full –standing room only and filled with love.  As a Director of many things wonderful, Vivi must have appreciated that March 4, 2012 was a perfect date for bringing together her colleagues, associates, fans, and friends from the motion picture/media/entertainment industries where she was such a rising star.  [Earlier Memorial dates considered coincided with the Golden Globes and the Oscars –which might have caused the Awards cancellation!]

Vivi Friedman

The Memorial Service was a loving tribute by Steven and family who saw Vivi through her trying times. There were eloquent expressions from gifted and talented friends at the Memorial for Vivi as a gifted talent and devoted friend.  Those words capturing Vivi’s spirit still resonate with me.  It was comforting to be there with members of the Finnish American Community including the Ylӓ-Soininmakis, Riku Campo, Nina Sallinen, Anna Easteden with husband Rob, and Virpi Sidler with William Russell.

Vivi Friedman

As a parting gesture of our love for Vivi, old friends and new were asked to hold the smooth decorative rocks from the Memorial Service in our hands as a comforting symbol of unity with Vivi’s legacy, her bond with the Finnish American and entertainment communities, and our bond as Finns celebrating one of our own who left us way too soon.

Later in the day, the pot luck ‘after event’ in Santa Monica was a continuation of warm and loving ‘time sharing’ by those who were touched by Vivi in differing ways.  My pot luck contribution had to have a Finnish touch—I chose a fish mousse with Finn Crisp.  Naturally, this brought up conversations about Finland with Vivi’s ‘other’ friends who had been so impressed with her talent and her unabashed ‘Finnishness’.

THE ROCK

The biggest happening in the LA area this month was “The Rock”.  It is the saga of a piece of granite that became a ‘rock star’, assumed a persona of its own, and took the entire region like a sand storm.  The Rock became a cultural phenomenon, never seen before.  The Rock’s journey was like ‘the trip to Compostela’ by an inanimate object.

The teeming masses were mesmerized along every stretch of every road in towns where the nighttime, mile-by-mile ‘crawl’ brought The Rock from the Riverside quarry to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art [LACMA].  For 11 days, this 340 ton boulder made headline news as it made its wandering way [105 miles] in a steel sling hauled by a 176 wheel truck that was almost as wide as three freeway lanes.  The 200 foot long ‘transporter’ was specially built.  [For perspective, the ‘big rigs’ that scare you by taking up almost a full lane on the freeway have up to 18 wheels, with trailers up to 53 feet long.]  With a top speed of 8 mph, The Rock rolled by night –ducking obstacles such as weight restrictions, bridges, overpasses, collisions, utility poles, and all steep hills.  Fan parties would break out at 4:30 AM when The Rock stopped its day’s travels!

Engineering, planning, and logistics for The Rock move took years.  The cost estimated at $10 million for buying, moving, and setting The Rock was criticized as extravagant in the current economy.  The counter argument was that the project was totally funded privately –with no government involvement or taxpayer money, and that The Rock has created jobs working on the project, The Rock will be a major attraction, and the city’s economy will get a great boost with no direct cost.

The Rock will be the centerpiece of an art installation at LACMA called “Levitated Mass” by Michael Hiezer.  Visitors will walk down a 456 foot ramp dug into the ground to be directly beneath The Rock as it appears to levitate above them.  [Hard hat concession anyone?]

Only in fast moving Los Angeles would a slow moving rock make headline news –The Rock became an instant celebrity.  Apparently, The Rock even has its own Twitter page.

Greater Los Angeles has often been described as dozens of communities in search of a city.  Yet, once The Rock started rolling, it gathered many disparate individuals and communities together. Each stop attracted thousands of residents in the middle of the night [even on work/school days] –most with no interest in or exposure to the esoteric world of contemporary art.  The Rock became “our rock”: photographs were taken, marriage proposals were inspired, human curiosity prevailed, and spontaneous fun happened.  Who knows, maybe some fans will even find their way into LACMA after they visit their old friend once it is settled into its new digs.

The Rock’s schedule just happened to be in perfect sync with my business schedule—like those folks who just happened to be driving down the right road at 3AM!  I did decide to have a look, but at 3PM–maybe take a quick photo for ‘journalistic research purposes’, of course.  Since I was on business near a scheduled Torrance stop [Vermont and Carson] anyway, I decided to take a quick look around.  The Rock was nowhere to be seen!!  Had the “think speak” of George Orwell’s 1984 finally arrived?  Was the local press trying to deceive this FinnTimes’ intrepid reporter by publishing incorrect coordinates?  Was this whole Rock scheme a scam?   As it turned out, the Long Beach stop the night before had attracted a crowd of 20,000 people!  That Rock stop turned into a street festival that lasted hours longer than planned.  Fact is stranger than fiction, in truth.

I went on with my business, disappointed.  Somehow I had wanted to see “our rock” during its historic journey to the heart of LA.  I did find myself driving along humming “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me, Let Me Hide Myself in Thee” the great 18th century hymn –one of the few things I can actually still play on the piano.

Meet you Under The Rock at LACMA –sometime soon!

“HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL” or “WHERE ‘DAT ROCK?”

Out of the blue I had a call from long time friend Joanne, a gal pal from my Berkeley days.  Joanne had unsuccessfully e-mailed me under the moniker “AvaBear” and was wondering why I had not responded [UC Berkeley’s mascot is the Bear].  She was trying to let me know that two other Berkeley “sisters” were coming to LA and that she had reservations for a LACMA exhibition.  The reservations were on the exact date that The Rock was due to arrive–was I interested in joining them?  “NSDT!” [not  printable] was my unspoken instant answer.

What serendipity [perfect luck].  Now I was stoked!  Not only had I been dying to see the Pacific Standard Time* California Design, 1930-1965: “Living in a Modern Way” exhibition at the Resnick Pavilion at LACMA, but we would be there on the evening The Rock arrived.  “Rock of Ages…ta ta ta…”.

Joanne is one of those “make magic happen where ever she goes” type of people.

When we arrived at LACMA, it was late enough that Joanne knew we could park behind the Page Museum for no charge, always a good thing in LA.  It was already dark when we parked.  Joanne walked up to three LACMA security guards and asked where “it” is.  They said “it” is behind the locked, cloaked fence.  Of course, she asked if they had the key!  No!  And so, we were off to see the exhibit.

LACMA

The LACMA campus is quite the happening place these days.  A new, hot restaurant is right in the center of things and is quite popular.  Ray’s was recently rated in the top 20 US restaurants and looked like a fun place to try California fare cooked in a wood burning oven [Santa—I want one of those!] with some nice wine pairings.

The exhibition at the Resnick Pavilion is awesome.  Every Finn in LA who loves Finland and LA should check it out.  The time frame is when Finland was in its golden days of artistic creativity that brought forth the genius of Marimekko, Saarinen, and the like.

The exhibit explores the design breakthroughs made possible by the conversion of World War II technologies to peacetime use, particularly featuring the furniture of Charles and Ray Eames.  Joanne casually mentioned that she had been to the actual Eames home—what a kick.

Main entry of the Eames House, Pacific Palisades, California

California turned into one of the most important centers for progressive architecture and furnishings at that time.  The Finnish connection is the influence of Eero Saarinen, Eames’ friend and associate, fellow architect, and furniture designer working together in that time.  It was around 1948 that Saarinen designed his eponymous “Womb Chair”.

'Womb Chair' by Saarinen

The staff announced the closing of the museum, so we retreated to our secret parking spot.  Heading west and turning the corner onto Fairfax, there was The Rock sticking out from behind the fence like the tip of an iceberg!  It was like welcoming a newborn in a nursery window.  That image came to mind because I just had that experience with my newest grandchild several weeks ago a few short blocks from where we were.

Welcome to LA, sweet “Rock”!   May you continue to bring joy, togetherness, and inspiration!

Now, I “got it”.  I suddenly understood all the hoopla.  This was Performance Art, executed at its best. The beauty of art is when it touches us, creates synergy in a community, and makes us think. There was such a celebration –an outpouring of expression and love here for The Rock.  I think [OK, hope] this art will continue to impact the entire LA area for decades.

PALM SPRINGS REUNION

My Berkeley buds [Joanne: a leading architect in LA; Dana: a professor/concert pianist from the East Coast; and Vicky: a Washington, D.C. corporate lawyer] are the deepest of friends going back many decades. We do not see one another often.  A reunion is even more special when it strengthens bonds and provides a mirror to each one’s history as our lives progress.

My friends were off to the desert for a week in a rented condo at a primo resort.  They were going to take in the annual Palm Springs tennis extravaganza, soak up some sun, drink some wine, do some shopping, talk about ‘everything and anything’, and, now, contemplate The Rock.  My availability to join them was limited to one day only, but I was up for the ‘challenge’!

Walking into the spectacular movie prop setting, snuggled into Santa Rosa Cove of the stark mountains, as the warm Winter sun said ‘good evening’ was like being enveloped by the comfort of a Saarinen Womb Chair.  The transformation continued as we became teenage sisters again.  We were reliving our sorority days at Cal and fast forwarding through our lives to the sense of accomplishment that is the reward of years of preparation, hard work, courage, perseverance, good fortune, and wonderful support.  It was even more fun than chasing The Rock!

The next morning started early.  The day’s plans included spa appointments.  With 63 treatment offerings at the resort spa, the obvious choice for me was the one using hot rocks (called sacred stones) as part of a massage.  [—and the beat goes on!]

Sacred stones treatment

Lying prone on the massage table, I felt the warmth of the rocks being moved on my back and began thinking of the rocks passed at Vivi’s Memorial, of The Rock that brought the L.A. community together, and the ‘rock solid’ friends who are a gift of generations.  I guess that is why they are called sacred stones.  They remind us to celebrate each day by thinking about and focusing on things that are good, pure, and lasting.

On the drive home to LA after my rock massage, I am humming Rock of Ages once again.  I am looking forward to when The Rock exhibition “Levitated Mass” opens this summer and we can go under The Rock itself and sing “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me, Let Me Hide Myself in Thee!”

SOME PARTING PEBBLES

Speaking of ‘rock stars’, did you know that Anaheim Ducks star Teemu Selanne plays a wicked guitar?  If you were present a few years ago when the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce helped the Finnish Heart Association with a fund raiser, you heard Teemu play and sing on stage!  While Teemu was performing for the ‘masses’, former Kings star Jari Kurri was in the kitchen helping cutting cheese and cleaning up the lunch dishes.  These guys are versatile!

Anaheim Ducks star Teemu Selanne

Anaheim Ducks star Teemu Selanne

And, these guys are facile with the little black ‘rock’ called a puck.  You may have seen that Teemu just passed Jari to become 19th in all-time NHL scoring history.  Now coaching the World Champion Finnish National Hockey team, Jari was present at the rink to see Teemu break his record.  He told Teemu he had come to look for some talent for the Finnish team—would he like a ‘try out’?

In contemplating this article, I was thinking about putting in something about famous Finnish artist Eino and his rock sculptures.  I first met Eino when I found him lying on my kitchen floor.  The tale involves Lasse Viren, Greta Peck, Audrey Hepburn, the Atlanta Olympics, and some metal art, as well.  Perhaps I will use that when I have a “metal” month.  What do you think?

Spaceship Earth sculpture by Finnish-American artist Eino

Spaceship Earth sculpture by Finnish-American artist Eino

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