AROUND LA WITH AVA®: And All That Jamzz

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

A Quiz:

What took place in Los Angeles on the recent three day Valentine’s/President’s Day weekend?

  1. The government shut down the  405 Freeway for 3 nights of construction naming the project Jamzilla.
  2. The University of Southern California Marching Band led a parade to a Downtown LA construction site to celebrate a concrete pour.
  3. The LA public transit system ran a Valentine Special rail car with heart decorations and official “facilitators” for citizens on a ‘rolling hook up’ speed dating event.
  4. A person was attacked by a runaway camel on a rampage in a quiet neighborhood.
  5. None of the above.
  6. All of the above. Just another wacky weekend in our City of Angels.  The answer is 6.

ON ONE LONG WEEKEND

This is what happened in Los Angeles around Valentine’s/President’s Day:

1        The 405 Freeway was totally shut down.  You would think that another weekend would have been preferable to one where thousands descend on our wonderful City of Angels for the cultural, social, and sports events scheduled to attract visitors ready for a long weekend of leisure, fun, and great weather.

The 405 Freeway was totally shut down.

The 405 Freeway was totally shut down.

Jamzilla [a sophomoric contraction of traffic jam and Godzilla, I suppose] was well publicized and came off without conflict.  Well… unless you were a ‘newbie’ trying to follow a ‘MapApp’ or a knowledgeable native’s directions to the PGA golf tournament at Riviera Country Club […405 to Sunset/west to Capri] or the key PAC 12 basketball game at UCLA […405 to Sunset/east to Pauley Pavilion parking].

Jamzilla Sympathy Sale in Manhattan beach.

Jamzilla Sympathy Sale in Manhattan beach.

2        Downtown LA featured a Guinness World Record Book ‘Concrete Pour Parade’ led by the USC Marching Band.  Pourzilla was LA Mayor Garcetti’s Twitter suggestion for memorializing the 20 hour concrete pour on the foundation for the $1 billion hotel that required 2,000 truckloads of cement to ‘fill’ the 18’ deep pit where the Wilshire Grand once stood.  Standzilla would have worked just as well because downtown LA traffic was put to a standstill to permit the Guinness World Record for the largest concrete pour in history.

Downtown LA featured a Guinness World Record Book ‘Concrete Pour Parade’ led by the USC Marching Band.

Downtown LA featured a Guinness World Record Book ‘Concrete Pour Parade’ led by the USC Marching Band.

Where else would pouring a building foundation become a ‘made-for-TV’ weekend long competition for the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremonies?

3        The METRO [our mass transit system; funded by tax dollars] decorated cars with hearts and promoted a Valentine’s “Speed Dating on the Red Line” special train schedule between Union Station and the North Hollywood Station.  “Metro staff wearing safety vests will be on board to facilitate the event.”

 [No, I don’t make this stuff up—the quote is from the ”How It Works” portion of their promotion!]


[No, I don’t make this stuff up—the quote is from the ”How It Works” portion of their promotion!]

[No, I don’t make this stuff up—the quote is from the How it Works portion of their promotion!  I did add the underline emphasis to safety vests, however.]

4      And, in the High Desert, a rampaging, runaway camel attacked a man.  The neighbor who owns the camel was not available for comment—and the ostrich was not talking.

A picture of the attacker

A picture of the attacker

Yes, God Winters in So Cal—and, He/She (Hän)  has a sense of humor!!

We need politicians with a sense of humor—or, at least, some imagination!

TALK ABOUT GOVERNMENT INTRUSION IN OUR LIVES

Every year in the beginning of the year, a new set of laws comes into effect.  Some of those in California—and nationally/internationally, are ‘head scratchers’!  Government seems to be getting more into the everyday lives and choices of individuals.  That is confusing, if not offensive.

I am not talking about NSA storing our telephone conversations for future reference because they assure us they won’t listen to them unless necessary.

I am not talking about NSA storing our telephone conversations for future reference because they assure us they won’t listen to them unless necessary.

I am not talking about NSA storing our telephone conversations for future reference because they assure us they won’t listen to them unless necessary.  Nor am I referring to the recent British admission that they have had to issue special warnings to staffers who review Social Media ‘images’ they pilfer from ‘thin air’—it seems the good but naive Brits capture their own racy acts and transmit them via Social Media to such an extent that reviewers could claim a ‘hostile work environment’.  So, there really is a difference between “1984” and 2014—HD with vivid color and instant re-play!

HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT/TAX REVENUE SHORTFALLS

Follow my confusion: After decades of quietly and enthusiastically collecting tax revenue from the “adult film” industry which also provided lots of direct and indirect ‘non-performance’ jobs, our politicians chose an extended period of high unemployment and economic Recession to legislate the use of “latex protection” in the films.  Result:  Last year the adult movie industry (a long time and big economic boon for the area centered in the San Fernando Valley) was chased off to Las Vegas because of the new “latex requirement”.  And, of course, “…what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.

“…what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.

“…what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.

[The politicians did not take a moral stand against sin, they simply dictated how ‘sin’ was to be performed!]

LATEX LAWS EXTENDED

This year, the ‘law’ is about latex in the form of gloves.  All food handlers must now have latex coming between them and their craft.

All food handlers must now have latex between them and their craft.

All food handlers must now have latex between them and their craft.

The Sushi Chefs are particularly upset, saying they need to feel each grain of rice on their exquisite creations.  Most restaurateurs, as well as, much of the eating public feel washing hands is a more efficient germ foil.  “Wax On/Wax Off”…’Gloves On/Gloves Off’.  We know where our hands have been—who keeps track of those gloves?

No Pandemics had been experienced, so no Pandemics have been avoided.

Protests and appeals continue.

AND THE BEAT GOES ON

Finnish Events and Activities

The month started with Finnish Church services at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Santa Monica.  What a wonderful opportunity this assembly of Finns and friends has become to worship, to welcome new faces and ‘regulars’, and to refresh the goodness in our lives.

Many were in attendance at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday afternoon despite the 3:30 kick-off.

Many were in attendance at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday afternoon despite the 3:30 kick-off.

Many were in attendance at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday afternoon despite the 3:30 kick-off.  American football has been called a ‘religion’ onto itself.  Over one third of all US households tune in to the game—some to watch the outrageously expensive commercials [$4 million per 30 seconds!!], some to watch the game.  Football is a little violent for me, but the ads are usually worth the watch.

Fittingly, this day’s church focus was on love, not ‘war’.  Pastor Tarkki emphasized that Finnish Valentine’s Day is actually ‘Friendship Day’—rejoicing in friendships rather than being a romantic celebration.

Also, fittingly, the post-service gatherings have been a special time of friendship and fellowship for the local Finnish community.  Wonderfully skilled Finnish bakers/cooks proudly share their treats and talents with a wide range of age groups who come to church from near and far.  Nothing like a ‘finnishing’ Coffee to help Finns thoroughly enjoy these special Sundays.

Finnish Veterans

The Finnish War Veteran’s Group (Veteraani Tuki Ryhmä) met at Suomi Kerho on February 15th.  Their meeting was piggy-backed with the Suomi seniors.  All enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by the vaunted Suomi Kerho ‘Ladies of the Kitchen’.  A movie was enjoyed by the whole group.   The film was a 2006 Finnish comedy Kalteva Torni [Leaning Tower (as in Pisa)] directed by Timo Koivusalo.

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All enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by the vaunted Suomi Kerho ‘Ladies of the Kitchen’

All enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by the vaunted Suomi Kerho ‘Ladies of the Kitchen’

Finnish Women and the Entertainment Scene

Nina Sallinen performed her magnificent Poor, Poor Lear on the Suomi Kerho stage on January 23rd.  Nina’s talent has been an ongoing source of pride for the Finnish community.

Nina Sallinen performed her magnificent Poor, Poor Lear.

Nina Sallinen performed her magnificent Poor, Poor Lear.

The first female Finnish filmmaker to be nominated for an Oscar as Director of a Short Film is Selma Vilhunen.  Ms. Vilhunen was in our fair city and at the Consular Residence with her screen writer Kirsikka Saari and her producer Elli Toivoniemi.


Selma Vilhunen’s short film ‘Do I have to take care of everything?’ is the second Finnish film ever to receive an Academy Award nomination.

Finnish ‘Football’ on Ice

The Winter Olympics brought us full circle from Super Bowl Sunday.

Hockey is a passion to Finns and Finnish Americans –much like football is to Americans.

Our little homeland beat men’s and women’s international hockey super powers.  And, even when the score was not favorable, the Lions and Lionesses performed with beauty, grace, skill, determination, and dignity!!!

Normally in sport, to the Gold goes the Glory.  At this Olympics, however, the Hockey Tournament’s Most Valuable Player was our own Teemu Selanne of the Bronze Medal Team Finland.  Even a week after the Olympic close, the LA Times put our guy’s performance in the headlines and went on to say “In Russia, Teemu Selanne was hockey’s hero.”

the Hockey Tournament’s Most Valuable Player was our own Teemu Selanne

the Hockey Tournament’s Most Valuable Player was our own Teemu Selanne

As I listened to the NBC Olympic commentators and as I read the press summaries wax poetic about the stamina and skill of our 43 year old playing on a much larger rink with much younger players—and out-playing them, it was clear this Finn is a great role model of sportsmanship who made us all proud and in a mood to celebrate.  But, that was something I already knew.

Back ‘in the day’ when the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce was the ‘go-to’ organization for Finns needing help in the western States, the Finnish Heart Association was looking for support in a US fund-raising effort.  Long story short, the local Finnish groups rallied for a grand event where Teemu and some of his friends showed up to help.  By help, I mean Teemu showed up with autographed hockey sticks, jerseys, pucks—and whatever, for auction.  He brought his guitar and, though Finnish modest, he played and sang like a professional for the enthralled audience.  Meanwhile, one of our regular volunteers was washing dishes in the back of the hall’s kitchen when another ‘guy’ asked where he could find a dish towel to dry.  When the washer looked up to point to the towels, there stood Jari Kurri with his sleeves already rolled up!  Teemu had brought some of his friends to ‘help out’.

One of our regular volunteers was washing dishes in the back of the hall’s kitchen when Jari Kurri  asked where he could find a dish towel to dry.

One of our regular volunteers was washing dishes in the back of the hall’s kitchen when Jari Kurri asked where he could find a dish towel to dry.

Needless-to-say, the event was a great success!!

OLYMPIC OSCARS

My life has been blessed in many ways.

High on the list are the friends I have made through the years.  The Oscars and Olympics have brought contact from two dear Finnish friends around Friendship Day.  Both are great people of accomplishment in their own right, but are better known to the world as the great women behind men of Finnish fame and greatness.  My friend Bitte is the wife of Oscar Winner [among many other things] Jörn Donner.  My friend Päivi is the wife of Olympic Gold Medal Winner [among many other things] Lasse Viren.

My friend Bitte is the wife of Oscar Winner [among many other things] Jörn Donner.

My friend Bitte is the wife of Oscar Winner [among many other things] Jörn Donner.

Great, loyal, lifelong friendships are indeed a blessing.  Over the years, events trigger a trail of recollections and connections that line up like dominos ready to lay down their fascinating pattern.

One example should suffice to illustrate the ‘6ºs of separation’ our lives permit.  Bitte is a journalist who sends me articles of interest regularly.  A recent receipt included a Helsingin Sanomat article about Markku Lähdesmäki, the award winning photographer.  Markku’s wife is Anne Kauranen.  Anne Kauranen and former Deputy Consul General in Los Angeles Anne Huhtamäki along with Bitte were instrumental in the founding of Suomi Koulu [the Finnish School] here.  Any recent reader of AROUND LA WITH AVA® will know the high regard in which I hold Mira Scott and Petra Kess who have done so much to make the Finnish Lutheran Church come to life in Santa Monica for the joy and betterment of all of us Finns.  Mira and Petra run Suomi Koulu in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.  ‘Dots’ connected—story told.  Simple.

Anne Lähdesmäki is printing out an image of Don Rickles, a subject of their recent ad campaign

Anne Lähdesmäki is printing out an image of Don Rickles, a subject of their recent ad campaign

BAGGIN’ IT

For those of us having experience shopping in Finnish grocery stores, you know you have to bring your Tori Kassit [shopping bag(s)] with you.  It has been a long time since anyone in a Finnish store asked you—or anyone, the familiar refrain from American stores: “…paper or plastic?”

No problem—insert a coin to get a grocery cart, bring the ‘take out’ bags in to the store, shop, bag and weigh/price your produce, unload the cart at the checkout, load your bags, return the cart to the ’cart line’ to get your coin ‘deposit’ back, and hope you get out of the parking lot before the person in the ‘check-out’ line behind you shows up to ask why you take so long to bag your goods.

I have felt the ‘pressure to perform’ in the check-out line as a ‘bagger’, but that pales against the pressure I feel trying to figure out what ‘bills’ to use—coins take longer.  I think I have finally figured out the ‘bottle deposit’ game—after all of these years.

 The City of Los Angeles joined Santa Monica and others in Los Angeles County in the ban when studies concluded that LA residents used and disposed of two billion single use plastic bags annually.

The City of Los Angeles joined Santa Monica and others in Los Angeles County in the ban when studies concluded that LA residents used and disposed of two billion single use plastic bags annually.

After a few shopping trips in the old country, I do start to feel like a ‘native’ again.

That given, why do I now still leave my empty grocery bags in the car whenever I go into a US supermarket?

After two months of the Los Angeles area bans on ‘single-use’ bags, I should be up to speed but am not. But, I am not alone.

Shoppers at most LA retail grocery stores now have to use their own reusable bags to carry out their purchases even though the ‘checkers’ still ‘bag’ your purchases—at least for now.  The City of Los Angeles joined Santa Monica and others in Los Angeles County in the ban when studies concluded that LA residents used and disposed of two billion single use plastic bags annually—more than 110,000 tons of junk to ensnare our birds, clog our drains, and forever line our dumps.

New solutions bring new problems, of course.  Without the endless supply of clean, single use bags, food safety has become an issue as consumers use and reuse bags that contain dirt, bacterial salmonella, and ecoli germs.  In our warm climate and our constant car culture, such environments can cause bacteria to multiply rapidly.  Educating the public to clean, sanitize, and safely discard their used bags is worthwhile.  Still, I am not ready for a ‘mandated’ semester course on Managing and Sanitizing Your Grocery Bag Inventory.

There are compulsives among us who are urging us to designate specific bags for meat, fish, veggies, and so on.  Of course, you are expected to wash the bags in soapy water after each shopping trip.  Following shopping, loading/unloading the car, and putting your groceries away, you are told to give your bags a bath!!

May I take those bags into the shower with me?  Must I wear latex gloves?

Hey Legislators:  There is a drought in this state!  Well, there was until this last whopper of a storm.

CONCLUSION

Last week I went into Hollywood for a party.  The pre-Oscar parties were in full swing as traffic came to a standstill on Sunset going east just where you hit the Sunset Strip.  I like Cynthia as a good alternate back road to get around traffic in that area—‘she’ did not disappoint.

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Oscar tent in Hollywood Blvd during storm before the Academy Awards

The giant Oscar statues were covered in clear “protection” plastic for the rain scheduled right up to Oscar Sunday evening.  Even though “…it never rains in Southern California”, “…when it rains, it pours”.

Even though “…it never rains in Southern California”, “…when it rains, it pours” (My party tent crushed by downed trees before the Oscars).

Even though “…it never rains in Southern California”, “…when it rains, it pours” (My party tent crushed by downed trees before the Oscars).

 

I wonder how many politicians considered claiming Stormageddon or Rainzilla would hit LA with a wallop and drafted an emergency ban on Manolo Blahniks and Jimmy Choos on the Red Carpet without rubbers (galoshes) protection?!?

End Note

Southern California is a fabulous and fun place to be any time of year.  Your scribe has lived, raised my family, and worked in Los Angeles for a lot of years.  Sharing the good, the bad, and the fabulous/ugly is what AROUND LA WITH AVA® seeks to do.  All things Finnish are celebrated just ‘because’.

ALWA topics are catholic—work, play, sight-seeing/sightings, local ‘hang-outs’, public/social service, travel, faith, food, people, LA life, fun, events past and pending, history, …whatever.  Sometimes we just have fun!

Welcome to AROUND LA WITH AVA®.

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