AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Seeing Double
Spring brings on nature’s bounty –and flowers bloom, the animal world comes alive, evidence of rebirth and reproduction is everywhere. Celebrities show off their “baby bumps”, birds build nests to hold their eggs, and the woodchuck aka ‘groundhog’ looks for his shadow.
Electrifying, this multiplying stuff. The air smells different here in LA, even without a whiff of El Nin͂o.
Doubles at Church
The month started with a duo of Pastors baptizing babies (including twins) at our beloved Finnish Lutheran Church in Santa Monica. This heartwarming double ceremony seems to have “borne fruit” in itself because when Church convened last week, there were four Pastors!!!! I am not quite sure how that works even though I was pre-med at Berkeley, briefly.
God did say go forth and multiply, right? The two additional Pastors were the Reverends Ismo Vainikka and Tommi Vuorinen who were visiting from Australia.
At any rate, we are delighted at how our congregation has grown. Our spirits and our lives are enriched.
There are three hanging bird houses next to the Finnish windsock on the roof ledge just outside the room in my house that was my parents’ quarters. The other beautiful Spring day, I noticed the houses were bobbing up and down under the watchful eyes of a “mama bird” flitting back and forth. [Yes, I was reminded of the RV bumper sticker you may have seen: “…if it’s rockin’, don’t be knockin’!”]
Things to Ponder Category
The hand-made round string bird houses were a gift to my parents a number of years ago. They hung empty and ignored next to my folks favorite windsock for some time. They looked nice—even if empty, so they stayed. Did the birds know that Isä and Ӓiti had ‘gone home’ to Finland? Suddenly, I had a new Spring smile! The circle was complete.
Have you ever wondered why they call RVs “recreational vehicles”? Is driving the behemoth supposed to be fun? Is the fuel drinker taking you to a place where you are going to recreate? Or, are you supposed to be engaging in sport, games, or other things while in the fancy big box? Is it necessarily a “fun vehicle” as opposed to a “serious business” vehicle? [I know one management consultant who was often picked up at the airport by a client in an RV with the management team aboard so the 1½ hour trip to headquarters could be put to full use!]
Is it fun to drive a house on wheels on crowded highways? Not having tried it, perhaps I should continue to ponder.
Anyway, there seem to be many more motorized monsters in our City of Angels these days. Many of the large, glamorous looking, shiny, black ones with tinted windows house rock stars, celebrities, and their entourages on the move. Sadly, there are more beat up, older, not so glamorous versions parked on the streets [often under overpasses to provide shelter from the rain we never get here in SoCal.] Our LA weather makes this a natural home for the homelessness. And, there is a housing shortage here.
Double Street Names
In keeping with ‘Things to Ponder’, there is a great itch waiting to be scratched in the collective consciousness of those of us who live here: “What the heck is it with ‘double’ street names??? Why is it that there are two ‘Beverly’, two ‘San Vincente’, and two ‘Santa Monica’ Boulevards in close proximity to each other? I have chosen these Westside examples because this curiosity has flummoxed me for decades. I like things to make sense!
OK, OK. They took one of the Santa Monica Boulevards and called it “Little Santa Monica”, but that label does not appear on maps or street signs, just in the instructions one local gives to another! If you are a visitor or a tourist, is this fair?
In our ‘GPS’ era, every mobile telephone can give you a satellite map of your current location. From my kitchen window, I regularly see Getty Center bound tourists entering our little cul-de-sac as a ‘safe cut’ because of the high speed traffic on Sepulveda Boulevard and the visual ‘gap’ on their phone map of 100 feet just before the Getty entrance. Their ‘map’ does not show the 100’ to be vertically straight up with fenced private property at the bottom and the top! Be sophisticated, jump through technological hoops, take a short-cut, get confused, get lost!! Not a nice welcoming experience/message.
The L.A. skyline now has [or is about to have] two of the highest buildings in the western United States. As the new Wilshire Grand (the old Hilton Hotel) construction reached the height of the Library Tower (US Bank Tower) last month, the Library Tower announced plans to add a glass observation platform hanging off of the top of the building. But, is that enough? Of course not—this is LA!! Barnham & Bailey meet Metro, Goldwyn, Mayer!!!! Soon you can feel like an Angel in flight in this City of Angels by taking a ride on the glass slide to be attached to the outside top of the Tower! YIKES!!
I am getting queasy just writing this. Obviously, this new attraction will not be for ‘the faint of heart’ or ‘height adverse’ among us. Knock yourselves out on this “Angels Descent”. It is important to enjoy the journey. There will be a bar up there for “liquid courage”. I say “ei, kiitos”. Give me the old “Angels Flight” just over a block away. The charming vintage funicular railway runs/ran like an Angel on the ground as the slowest vehicle known to modern transit at 2 miles per hour. Much like the rest of LA traffic, it takes a long time to go a short distance!
Public funerals planned for a national/international television audience are carefully staged.
Watching Nancy Reagan’s ceremony in Simi Valley was a bit more personal for me. In my early years in Los Angeles, we were neighbors briefly when I lived with my in-laws. Later, I had the honor to serve on the Board of an organization with Mrs. Reagan. Through the decades, I saw the former First Lady at many functions. She was always a champion of important issues and causes. Mrs. Reagan was much loved and admired.
It was poignant to observe a duo of First Ladies sitting side by side to honor one of their own. Laura Bush and Michelle Obama brought special focus to the beloved Nancy Reagan as she was laid to rest next to her husband, President Ronald Reagan.
President and Mrs. Reagan were devoted to each other, to this country, to the State of California, and to our City of Angels. These Angelenos (like most of us) came from elsewhere. They were here originally as part of the Los Angeles movie industry; they met; they were married in the ‘Little Brown Church’ in the Valley; and –as they say, “…the rest is history”!
A visit to the Reagan Library in Simi Valley will bring history and politics to life—and death.
The month began with a meeting of the Friends of Finland at the Finnish Consular residence. One of the main reasons for the meeting was to introduce preliminary thoughts developing for the pending Finland 100 action plan.
Though he was not present, we were told of greetings from Esa-Pekka Salonen who has committed to doing special 100th concerts.
We also heard that Teemu and Sirpa Selänne were on board for celebratory plans.
Sirpa Welch, (Chef at the Residence) told me of just having wrapped up her experience on the Finnish reality series called Supertähdet where she cooked for Finnish star athletes. The series was filmed at the Palm Springs mansion of Sylvester Stallone.
The Finland 100 activities have some fun things happening. A traveling sauna will be touring the United States starting in January –with an official start here in our fair city of Los Angeles! A US Postal Stamp will be issued in co-operation with Ruth Goldway, the Embassy of Finland in Washington, and the Consulate General of Finland in New York for the auspicious 100th Anniversary.
Park Cofield told about SisuIsInTheHeart plans. He welcomes ideas and support as the project grows and travels. www.SisuIsInTheHeart.com
Business interests such as Supercell Gaming, Kukko Gluten-Free Beer, and many others will be part of the celebration. Other activities, exhibitions, and programs featuring literature, design, photography, architecture, and even Finnish startups will be featured. Did I mention that you may be able to introduce your American friends to fun Finnish oddities in the Finn-Olympics at one of our local universities? I will let you explain our unique events such as wife-carrying, cell phone and rubber boot throwing, and other Suomi challenges that are in planning stages. Rumor has it that you can win your wife’s weight in beer by winning certain events. [No, I do not know if the beer is gluten-free.]
FACC Annual Meeting
The Annual Meeting of the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce on the Pacific Coast, Inc. took place at my home in April. New members, new Board members, and familiar faces joined together to celebrate the progress of the past year and to anticipate the excitement of the coming year. Energized with fresh enthusiasm, great ideas, and a new Intern coming from Finland, should provide the fodder for an exciting and productive time ahead.
Veteraani Tukyryhmä Ry proudly gathered at Suomi Kerho despite the ever shrinking population of honored Veterans and Lottas who are able to attend. These meetings have been lovingly dovetailed by Suomi Kerho with the Finnish Senior Club. A fellowship lunch was shared, followed by a Finnish movie. All who attend are so grateful for the efforts of those putting this much anticipated event together. Henry Aspen, Pauli Majamäki, and others of Suomi Kerho have provided such caring support for our treasured Veterans and Lottas. At the last meeting day, Pauli was proudly wearing his General Mannerheim tee-shirt commemorating the Finnish hero. The special moments we share with our living (and memories of late loved ones) heroes are so precious.
Veteran Veikko Kautianen shared very solemn memories with me this month. Those moments were so meaningful. His lovely and gracious wife, Aino, comes with her caregiver to each meeting.
Always in the background (i.e. the kitchen) is the widow of a Veteran, Eila Korpinen. She is an amazing lively strawberry blond bundle of Finnish energy! Eila lives [literally] a stones throw from a famous landmark: the Little Brown Church where Ronald and Nancy Reagan were married. [What a small town LA is?!!!]
Finlandia Foundation National Is Getting Ready For Taina Elg
A trip to Pasadena is always refreshing. Finlandia Foundation functions offer a life-giving boost to our Finnish blood. Maria Kizirian (a former Finnish Performer of the Year, herself) runs the Finlandia Foundation National office at the Pasadena Historical Museum housed in the Paloheimo/Feynes mansion. Her passion, background, and talents make her a perfect match for her role. Volunteering to help with the Taina Elg event next month include Leena Tukiainen, Jeff Neff of LAFF, Ava Anttila, and others are who are excited about the plans for an “Old Hollywood Teatime in the Mansion Gardens” theme that is planned.
Marimekko/Target Spring Fling Duet
Marimekko and Target are collaborating! Did you get your Marimekko fix at Target last weekend? Until May 8th (or while supplies last), Target is selling a new line of items. Most prints in the collection were designed by longtime Marimekko star Maija Isola [best known for her iconic prints from the ‘50s and ‘60s, including the “Unikko” pattern].
Target has previously partnered with other design giants such as Missoni, Mulberry, Gautier, and Lilly Pulitzer whose collection sold out in less than a day. Most of the collection is inspired by summer living outdoors. At least two Finns I know have their eye on the Marimekko surfboard. I made a successful ‘run’ for towels, placemats, tote bags, and summer frocks to fill family May birthday wishes!
It is fun being a Finn!!!!!!!!!!
[As this goes to press, protests by conservative groups who are concerned about possible predatory actions against women and children in restrooms at Target stores all over the country may quash Marimekko sales. The issue is bathrooms at the stores. On the theme of this column, Seeing Double, you may be seeing both ‘born’ biological genders lined up side-by-side if Target and transgender advocates have their wish that a person be permitted to use the facility of the sex with whom they identify.]
The annual Suomi Kerho Bake Sale and Easter Dinner was its usual grand success. Liisa Linnala told the Friends of Finland meeting that Suomi Kerho will be celebrating its 60th Anniversary on October 1, 2016.
We are excited that the Los Angeles Philharmonic has named brilliant Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki, 47, as only the third Principal Guest Conductor in its history. Her three year tenure in this position begins with the ‘17/’18 Season. She follows the likes of Simon Rattle and Michael Tilson Tomas. You go girl!!!
[Around LA with Ava® featured Ms. Mälkki in our column entitled Women in 2013.]
AFTERWORD: From Finnish Friends
Finland is coming to life with nature’s rebirth. Dear friend Ambassador Emeritus Maria Serenius sent photographs of the beauty of Spring observed on her shore in Helsinki with these magnificent double swans!