AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear
As an ever-curious, pondering, wandering fan of this City of Angels, irony, serendipity, the meaning of words, and life’s coincidences enter my thoughts often –especially sitting in a non-moving vehicle.
If you live in Los Angeles, chances are that a large portion of your day is spent sitting in traffic in a car you drive yourself. If you don’t live in Los Angeles, you have heard our laments.
Despite attempts to change the car culture with massive investments in mass transit projects or the pesky, highly motivated, and ‘subversively’ dangerous bicycle ‘political’ movement, most real Angelenos love their cars. Some love them in quirky ways— even giving them names like pets or family members. Such fierce loyalty to their Metal Friends develops and is sustained despite the ‘cost/benefit ratio’ going down the tubes as the repair bills rise for their aging buckets of bolts.
I plead guilty: until the other month, the last car I bought was in 1995!
My neighbor in Manhattan Beach had a car dealership that had been in his Austrian family for generations. While his dealership was in the San Fernando Valley, the family had figured out that there were lots of reasons why people traded in their cars. I bought that ’95 because my older model would not make it up the Sepulveda Pass as my children grew and the little engine could not handle their additional weight. The cars bought/traded were the same—midnight blue 4 door sedans.
On the wall of the Dealership was a Polaroid photograph of each customer proudly standing next to their newly purchased vehicle posing with a bouquet of red roses provided by the Dealership. It was almost wedding-like!
Loyalty is big thing to me. I have been loyal to that sweet, plucky, four cylinder, midnight blue, Finnish feeling European fuel miser with a FIN decal on its bumper that still sits in the driveway even though it has not been driven in years. Reluctantly, my newest ‘old’ car will soon to be on its way to a car donor organ charity aka a chop-shop.
After all these years, a new car is a big thing to this simple girl. All right, my “new car” is not this year’s model, fresh out of the dealership—and there was no bouquet of roses! It is a 5 year old, very low mileage beauty maintained as exquisitely as a Hollywood starlet! The car was purchased from a private party.
Technology has changed the automobile with new-fangled electronics. My beauty has all of the ‘bells and whistles’ cars are equipped with these days. Sitting in my new toy for the first times, the same message came at me in text in the many rear view mirrors and in other messaging devices: Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear.
What the @#&% ?!!? What is the meaning of this? Each time the car is put in reverse the screen of the ‘photograph like’ rear view provided, the same existential message appears. Shall I surrender now –or wait until I get on the freeway?
Truthfully, at first, I was so busy reading screens and mirrors, I almost forgot to pay attention to the people and the cars I used to look to avoid!
Big Things/Close Things
The new car’s mirrors, screens, and messages were the harbinger of this column. In our LA microcosm of life, things do seem to be getting bigger and getting closer.
What I call ‘performance Art’ started off the month here. The ‘ginormous’ NASA fuel tank that made its way to our lovely City of Angels by way of the Panama Canal from Louisiana arrived with proper fanfare. That was the same morning the shopping needed to be done for the Taina Elg event I had agreed to cater for the Finlandia Foundation. Normally a news ‘junkie’, I did not have KNX1070 tuned in on my radio as I headed out to Costco, that magnificent money pit of stores located at Lincoln and Washington in Marina Del Rey. Having violated a basic tenet of L.A. driving, of course, I ended up right where the debut of the ‘Tank Transport’ show was happening that morning. So, I made it to the ‘opening of a show’ where I had not planned to go. That tank made it into this column, even though I did not have my Costco supplies for the event pending.
Long term readers may remember the ‘rock’. I mean the ‘performance art’ transport of a piece later named Levitated Mass that wound its way through freeway closures and cheering crowds a while back. That piece now sits permanently at LACMA where you can walk under it.
Then, there was Endeavour space vehicle that I endeavored to photograph as it ‘zoomed’ on its last flight over the house. It then went on to make L.A. history with its 2 mph ‘ceremonial lap’ for adoring fans snapping ‘selfies’. That mother of all space shuttles needed giant trees to be felled on L.A.’s lovely boulevards before it made its journey to Exposition Park, its final resting/showplace.
Now it was the fuel tank’s turn to be joined forever with its space partner in launching on display for the pre-jettison pose. It was fun to be close. The tank was big. The two will be displayed vertically side by side pointing skyward clutching each other tightly as in their original pre-launch space hug.
It is funny how adoring fans show up for events involving inanimate objects in this town dedicated to bringing life to the mind and imagination! It is almost like the political rallies this year …but, don’t get me started on that topic! [Other than to say things are “huge”, if you “feel the Bern”… !]
Ambassador and Ambivalence
His Excellency David O’Sullivan [Ambassador of the European Union to the United States] was in town for an address at the UCLA Faculty Club on the timely topic “Europe at the Crossroads”. As for the European Union, Mr. O’Sullivan felt that all countries were now better off, even as he noted the importance of the vote on June 23rd on the ‘Brexit’ issue [before the vote]. With his perspective of 35 years in European service, he expressed concern that the political crises have been and will be destabilizing.
Note: As this column goes to press, we know the ‘Brexit’ vote. What will be next? Will France pull a ‘Frexit’; will Czechoslovakia do a ‘Czechquit’; Finland a ‘Finnish’? Still pending is the newly articulated ‘do-over’ proposed by the Brits who woke up to find “…Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear”! Fasten your seatbelts—rocky road ahead!!!
O’Sullivan told that there is 15 times more trade with the EU and Russia than anyone else. Sanctions have hurt the EU. What happens if there is no EU? How does Russia pay for goods and services with oil at €42?
With the millions of refugees already in Europe, many thousand dead, and 200,000 rescued by EU vessels, the global migrant problem will only get worse. Sullivan told that in the 2014 elections in the EU, many anti-EU officials were elected. As to the U.S. stand on migration, he quoted Churchill: “The US will always do the right thing after they have exhausted all other options.” Was that a polite way of saying Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear or was he setting up a hedge for the British ‘do-over’?
FACC Board Member Heidi Crooks sitting next to me beat me to her feet to ask the question on many minds (and in the piece in Amerikan Uutiset) about the military buildup, the Baltic fly-over ‘buzzings’, and other provocations by Finland’s Eastern neighbor. O’Sullivan said they were a big concern for him. Stressing the importance of solidarity on this issue, O’Sullivan said the issue will continue to be dangerous and worrisome.
Mr. O’Sullivan reminisced about his first visit to LA at the age of 9 in 1961—the Wizard of Oz was yet to be colorized. No matter how many rocks or fuel tanks we stock, we all remember the ‘magic’ of our childhood experiences in ‘tinsel town’!
Later that week, I was present as Ambassador O’Sullivan opened the EU Film Festival. Since the venues and audiences were so diverse, it was perfectly understandable that Mr. O’Sullivan used the same sentiments—and the same anecdotes.
The event at the Egyptian Theater was great fun! Many Finnish and other European ‘movers and shakers’ were around including: Erkki and Ilona Kanto, Liisa and Ahvo Linnala, Bo Svenson, and our new Consul for Commercial and Trade Affairs Aki Luukkainen—among many others. The Finnish short film Just a Name was a perfect way to start off the festivities for the film festival. It was hilarious!
My conclusion was that the Big EU Film Festival concept is fantastic!! Great leadership and help was provided by Consul General Juha (J.P.) Markkanen and his wonderful Consular staff. Thanks to our Consulate’s efforts, the affair was –“…right on!!!”
In a place like Los Angeles, it is often hard to know what to pay attention to at any point in time. So much happens all around us. Are things closer or bigger that we see them? Living here, the ‘filters’ need to be fine-tuned in our business and personal lives. The UCLA Faculty Club and the Egyptian Theatre are not normal ‘bed fellows’, yet I got ‘close-ups’ with Ambassador O’Sullivan at each!
An event I attended honoring the Women of Eagle Scouts by the Council of Boy Scouts of America would seem to have little to do with Ambassador O’Sullivan and my concerns about provocative Russian ‘buzzing’ of EU objects/potential targets. Yet, the Boy Scout speaker was TOP GUN Navy Fighter Pilot John H. Semecken, III. John is a real life flying super hero who was Chief Advisor for the original Top Gun movie. If you saw the movie, you saw John in his starring role singing “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” right next to Tom Cruise. Like Alfred Hitchcock’s penchant for appearing in some random scene in each of his films, John got the ‘lollipop’ of singing a drinking song on screen! His incredible career and personal achievements got him his ‘singing gig’!
Dressed in his flight suit for the Women of Eagle Scouts presentation, Fighter Pilot Semecken looked the role as he told of days-of-yore “buzzing” of Soviet aircraft, knowing there would be photographs taken by the Soviets even if they knew Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear. His team placed a visible gag item [best described as something inflatable from an adult store!] on board that would be clearly visible in the Kremlin ‘news shots’ taken of the US jets as they buzzed the Soviet aircraft in the Indian Ocean.
I am worried about backing out of my driveway because I have too many mirrors and cameras giving me too many messages to decipher. Our Top Guns play games with ‘inflatables’ at supersonic speeds! The flying high jinxes were not the same for O’Sullivan and Semecken—different people were doing the buzzing!
Elsewhere: Random Thoughts While Sitting in Traffic
Driving on The Strip for the EU Film Festival, there were many folks headed for a place where a Purple neon sign announced: “No rock star died today!” A young lady [with an elderly friend with high heeled platform shoes who could hardly make it across the street] was paying homage to an idol in what seemed like an important ‘pilgrimage of respect’ for Big Rock Idol PRINCE.
Later, along Hollywood Boulevard (at Grauman’s) is a store named La La Land. The cement mixer ahead of me in traffic had signs warning of “danger”. I guess you can get encased in cement while waiting for a red light. Do you need a reservation to be ‘seated’ at Grauman’s??
In a big place like LA, things are always happening. Sometimes we can ignore events. Sometimes a big response is required. Sometimes it helps to know which response is appropriate!
A short time ago in the early AM, a marked Police Car came into the quiet cul de sac where I live and parked. Two fully equipped officers got out of the unit carrying their batons—normally left in the car or carried on their belts. That was sufficiently different that it was time to pay attention. After a bit, one of the officers came back to the car and moved it from the curb to a position blocking exit from deep inside the cul de sac. After another bit, a second cruiser arrived with one officer who also parked in a ‘blocking’ mode and walked on in. Things were getting ‘curiouser’ and ‘curiouser’!!
Suddenly, all three policemen sprinted out to their vehicles with screeching U-turns and squealed out with rubber burning—one barely missing a neighbor coming home! We knew something important was happening—the helicopters and building sirens told us it was more than the first cops were investigating!
The TV local news gave the bottom line on what ‘big thing’ was going on: UCLA was in full lockdown mode! A mass shooting on campus was feared with attention centered on the Engineering Building. OMG—our dear next door neighbor is an Engineering Professor! Hours of pacing and watching gut-wrenching news coverage followed with no definitive personal news. Media covered the over-the-top law enforcement response, news filtered out about what had transpired, and any reasonable observer could see that the Responders had matters under control.
After his fearful and fateful day on campus, our ashen-faced, grief stricken neighbor arrived home. He had been just a few doors away from what turned out to be a murder/suicide (student-teacher) in his Mechanical Engineering Department.
Talk about too close for comfort: FinnTimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen told that he had been in that same building on a project just the day before! In fact, it was a clean tech visit for Finns, with my dear neighbor featured.
We never did figure out what our earlier law enforcement persons were investigating.
Going to my car later in the day to begin some errands, I noticed someone laid out sleeping in my back seat just before I got into the car. The Police were called, again. Revolvers drawn, 3 policemen made the arrest of a guy loaded with tattoos who had broken in; they simply described as a “criminal”.
I was really glad that I had not tried to drive away when: Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear –and are criminal!
Worth the Wait in Traffic
On a happy note: Guests had a chance to be up close and personal as Taina Elg had her Close–Up at the Finlandia Foundation National’s Performer of the Year event. Also featured was Heli Sirviö.
A former Performer of the Year herself, the beautiful and talented Finlandia Foundation’s Maria Kizirian had a party concept that worked brilliantly. Celebrating old Hollywood with guests encouraged to ‘dress up’ made for a fun event in the gardens. Hats, feathers, pearls, caftans, Hollywood moguls in Panama hats, and “pin-up” girl styles were the order of the day. It was fun!
Maria, Leena Tukiainen, Jeff Neff, and I had fun planning the retro-Hollywood style passed hors d’oevres we served.
Here is the menu we came up with (prepared by volunteers in my kitchen):
Kon Tiki Chicken Salad on Toast Rounds
Butternut Squash in Demitasse
Mini Mushroom Quiches
Roman Holiday Goat Cheese Tomato Tarts
Pate California Grape Croustades
Ham Asparagus Radish Roulades
Albacore/ Salmon Tea Sandwiches
Smoked Salmon Cucumber Mini Bagel Bites
Sweet Gluten Free Mini Treats from (Finnish) Natural Baking Company
Woodbridge Sauvignon Blanc
European Roast Coffee
Paul Halme, Esq. (Head of the Paloheimo Foundation) warmly welcome the Guest of Honor and all enthusiastic attendees. All enjoyed tasting the delicious Danish pastries he brought from his wife Susan’s Solvang Bakery. Ms. Elg remembered the Paloheimo family fondly, having spent time with the family when they lived in the mansion during her days here.
Paul presented Ms. Elg with a beautifully framed Arnefelt piece usually reserved for FFN trustees.
As part of her visit to Los Angeles, the gracious and generous “divine Ms. Elg” donated her beautiful Finnish national costume to the Finlandia Foundation. It will have its permanent home at the Tupa.
Being close up to such a big star was such fun. We love you, Taina!! Thanks for coming. Thanks for starring at our event!!!!!
The Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation had its “Scholarship Picnic” –the annual fundraiser usually held in the Gardens, the Curtin House, or the Giddings Room.
When I pulled up to get into the normal parking lot, there were security guards, catering trucks, and lots of people scurrying about. It looked like a very big turnout for the L.A.F.F. event! They were turning people away from the parking lot.
It was a movie shoot! Why not—this is Hollywood!
The Grand Portico of The Feynes Mansion was covered in black cloth (used to block sunlight or to simulate nighttime for inside shots). What was last year’s picnic venue was swarming with the actors and crew so it was blocked off from our use, too. The Curtin House was also closed.
Resilient and resourceful as Finns are, the LAFF members made the Tupa a cozy, friendly, and fun venue for the luncheon. We all got ‘up close and personal’ with the newly gifted Taina Elg National Costume. Valerie Jokela struck some poses for photos with the costume, aided by Sirvo who was celebrating a birthday.
The sounds of our wonderful music brought in some ‘movie people’ to listen and compliment! Your ever-curious interrogator just had to ask what was being filmed. The answer: a Barbie commercial! Getting ready for the Christmas season, I suppose—Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear. I did see some props looking like parts of a merry-go-round in the trucks.
Speaking of the Carousel: the treasure on the Santa Monica Pier is having its 100th birthday! It is older than Finland by a hair! It is a fun famous landmark. Marilyn Monroe was a frequent visitor. The movie The Sting was filmed there.
Sometimes it is fun to look back and find that Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear!!!
Sometimes it is important to look back. I heard a Finn recently quoted as saying: “Finns don’t look in the rear view mirror”.
I take issue with this “…look-Ma-no-hands-until-you-hit-the-wall” approach. My new rear view mirrors remind me that things are bigger and closer than they appear sometimes. As Finland approaches her Centennial, let us at least look in our collective, historical rear view mirror with reverence and appreciation for what was done so well and with such great sacrifice by our fore fathers.
And, let us never forget the Veterans and Lottas who got us to this point!
Does it matter if it was Winston Churchill who said: “…he who does not recognize the past is bound to repeat it!” Sometimes, Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear.
Big Love Sandwich Cake
I have heard from many local Finns that they have not made and/or are intimidated about making the traditional Finnish Sandwich Cake.
This month’s recipe is more of a pictorial assembly instruction than a recipe of how I make mine. It is great for summer entertaining, showers, weddings, and the like.
You can do it and should do it! Show your love!! You will blow away your Finnish and non-Finnish guests when you serve this at a tea party, wedding, baby shower, memorial service, or bring it to a potluck. Your Sisu will rise to meet your challenges; your creativity will take over and you will have fun with it!
Be sure you have a large empty shelf available in your refrigerator for the assembled cake as it needs to be chilled overnight. [It is 112º F in Beverly Hills as this is being written!] A large tray or foil covered piece of heavy cardboard will be needed.
Ingredients You Will Need:
2 Fillings of your choice: chicken salad, egg salad*, ham salad, salmon salad, tuna salad**, lobster salad, olive tapenade, or the like. Use your own favorite recipes. I have given 2 favorites. The amounts are approximate. You will know when you get to a nice spreadable consistency in your fillings.
Butter: about a pound of salted butter softened to room temperature to spread on bread slices
Bread: apologies to my homeland, but this time use American white bread [what my father used to call vaahtokumi (foam rubber). He really missed his hapanleipä in the early days here.]. American white sandwich bread is sold in every store here. It works.
Here is a great tip: If you can find a bakery outlet store near you that sells what my dad jokingly called “used bread” –really, “day-old” product sold at a discount. You will have scored a bargain and have a perfect ingredient. The day old white bread will not be mushy, but will be the right consistency to be trimmed and assembled for your masterpiece. Some chain grocery stores have a discount rack near the back of a store for overripe produce and used bread. It helps to know where to look to get “lucky”! If worse comes to worse, buy new bags of bread a few days before you need them!
Mayonnaise: lots for frosting and decorating. Good quality preferred since it is a prominent flavor.
Garnishes: radishes, chives, shrimp, olives, parsley, cucumber, fresh dill, salmon roses, lemon slices, and/or whatever you think fun or pretty!
* Egg Salad: 1 dozen large, peeled, hard boiled eggs; about 3 cups of good mayonnaise; 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard; 1 teaspoon curry powder; salt and pepper to taste. Chop all ingredients fine or process in food processor. [There may be filling remaining—refrigerate—tomorrow’s lunch is made!]
** Tuna Salad: 1 giant can (66.05 ounces) water packed Tuna; 3 cups good mayonnaise; finely chopped celery; 4 tablespoons pickle relish; pepper and garlic salt to taste; 1 tablespoon dried dill. Chop all ingredients fine or process in food processor. [There will be filling remaining—refrigerate—tomorrow’s dinner is made!]
Now it is time to get closer. You are about to create a Finnish Big Love Sandwich Cake!
If you have friends or children around to join you, this is a great, rewarding, fun time.
After removing crusts from bread by knife, line the pieces up on the first layer of your creation. Lightly butter each layer on the top to prevent leakage of the filling. Put on first filling, spreading evenly to the edges.
Put on a second layer of crustless bread squares. Butter with offset spatula and add second filling, as above.
Place third portion of bread squares on top of second filling. Continue to build layers as above. Or, if you like, stop here. Place ‘gently’ moistened paper towels over the sandwich cake; wrap in cling film; and keep refrigerated overnight.
Frost cake with Mayonnaise; decorate with squiggles, stars, or whatever with a cake decorating bag.
Step back—admire your creation!!—applaud your helpers!!!
You made it!!!!
Have a nice, relaxing and most of all, fun Summer!