AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Hail and Farewell

FINNISH INDEPENDENCE

6 December 1917

ARI J. ANTTILA 1925-2014

This column is dedicated to the memory of my dear Veteran father, Ari Anttila.

He heard me give this speech at the 95th Independence Day Gala.

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Independence Day Gala 2012 Speech by Ava Anttila:

Welcome everyone (Tervetuloa kaikille)

Thank you for being here!!

As we begin the Suomi 95 celebration, a special thanks is due to all of our sponsors—and, especially to our principal sponsors: the Finnish Consulate and Suomi Kerho.  Thanks too to Riikka Jyrälä and her hard working Suomi 95 Committee.

We all are here tonight to celebrate Finnish Independence.  But what does that mean?   Everyone here tonight has some connection or interest in Finland.  That, by itself, is reason to celebrate!

The 95th anniversary of Independence is more than a date and a reason for a party.   How did we get here?  Why are we here?  What is our connection with Finland’s history?   Why should you or you or you or you—Why should we care about our history and connected heritage?

Olen varma että kaikki tässä salissa ovat kiitollisia perinteisistä historiastamme.  Olet läsnä tänä iltana isoisienne, isoäitienne, isienne ja, äitienne muiston kunniaksi.

Miksi olemme täällää? Mikä tämän tilaisuuden tarkoitus ? Olette myös juhlimassa suomalaisuuttanne ja mitä se on merkinnyt omassa elämässänne.

What is this box —-mikä tämä rasia on?

This box holds our history.  This box is why we are here!  This box is a gift from the heroes and heroines we honor tonight.

I saw this box every day of my life as a little girl –literally, as long as I can remember.

I saw this box every day of my life as a little girl –literally, as long as I can remember.

As the daughter of a Finnish war Veteran and a Lotta, I am honored to be standing here tonight to share a few thoughts with you.  As a proud citizen of Finland and of the United States, I have noticed the difference in the way Independence is celebrated.  The 4th of July is a joyous, yankee-doodle-dandy, beer and barbeque party—appropriate to a freedom celebration earned by the blood and treasure of distant kin almost 250 years ago.

Finnish Independence Day on December 6th is a solemn, reverent homage to the SISU of our fathers and mothers who ‘told’ Russia they could not take back Finland in 1939 –independent only since 1917.  Finns do not like change—and they certainly do not respond well to being told what to do!

... the combination of heavy woodland, strong defence layout and veterans of the Finnish legion fresh from the European war held the Russians at bay.

… the combination of heavy woodland, strong defence layout and veterans of the Finnish legion fresh from the European war held the Russians at bay.

You may recall that in 1155, the first missionaries arrived in Finland from Sweden.  Finland became part of the Swedish realm.  In 1809, Sweden surrendered Finland to Russia, with the Czar declaring himself as a constitutional monarch over an autonomous Duchy.  In 1917, Finland declared its independence and was recognized as a new state by Russia, France, Germany, and Sweden.  Finland soon became a Republic with a President as its Head of State.

Russia invaded Finland in 1939—after only 22 years of Finnish Independence, and the Winter War began.  My Mother was 13—my Father was 14 when he saw the Russian bombers hitting his Helsinki neighborhood!  Both were active participants in the Continuation War from 1941 to 1944.  Finnish Independence is not only Finnish History—it is family history.  It is very personal!!  My parents survived.  Many others did not.  They were people my parents –and yours, knew and loved.  Yes, Finnish Independence is personal, indeed!

Finland stood alone when on November 30 1939, Stalin, believing he could rapidly crush the Finns opened hostilities with a bomber raid over Helsinki.

Finland stood alone when on November 30 1939, Stalin, believing he could rapidly crush the Finns opened hostilities with a bomber raid over Helsinki.

Fifteen years ago—when we were planning the 80th, it seemed only proper to cast that Los Angeles Independence “Gala” as a dignified celebration featuring the Veterans and Lottas who fought to preserve Finnish Independence and who were living in our midst.  Yesterday I pulled out the photos of the 1997 celebration where the Veterans and Lottas posed for a formal portrait before they proudly marched into the Ballroom to thunderous applause.  What a proud assembly!!  Tonight their numbers are significantly fewer, but our gratitude and pride in their courage, commitment, and accomplishments forever remains

Books and movies have attempted to capture the grim reality of the Winter War and the Continuation War.  Truth be known, only those who were there really know why “…war is hell”.  Our honored guests—the Veterans , know from personal experience.  The Lottas were right alongside of them on the battlefields, in the medical triage, and in the mess halls as the bullets were flying.    Thank you!!

On a lighter note:  A number of years ago when my boys were younger, I encouraged them to learn about Finnish Independence from two who were part of that heritage of the valiant fighting Finns—their Grandparents.  My older son asked my dear Lotta Mother: “What did the Lotta’s do?”  Her answer lost a little in translation when she replied “…we serviced the troops!”

So, what about this  box?

At this time of year everyone is all about the holiday season, the celebrations, and the pikkujoulus.  Remember ‘Black Friday’ this year with its accelerated commercialism?  It worked.  People are buying presents like crazy.  Decorations are up, music is playing, but most seem to be in a holiday mood for fun and folly.  Lots of fancy boxes will be wrapped in pretty paper and pretentious bows.

Not today!  Not in this moment!  Not on Finnish Independence Day!  For the younger generations here tonight, you need to know that this is a solemn day of great respect to ponder the incredible Finnish heritage you have been given.  It is your obligation to pass the heritage on.  You are the last generation who will have personally known the very real and wonderful people who fought to keep Finland independent!

I saw this box every day of my life as a little girl –literally, as long as I can remember.  Isä brought this simple contraption to the U.S. from Finland.  It was part of my dear Veteran Father’s daily routine.  He looked at it—he held it—he put treasured items in it.  One day, many years ago, I asked him about the box.  He showed me 2 papers folded up inside, but did not say much that I understood.  Those papers were leaflets in Finnish and Russian urging the Finns to surrender because the war was “lost”.  [The Russians never did understand the Finns—or Sisu!]

A few years later, I came to understand what this box was –and what it represented.   It was a gift from him—and his generation, to me and mine.  Just a plain box—no ribbons here!

This is a land mine from the Continuation War!  Among the duties my Father had doing during the war was clearing these from our homeland.  The mines were put on the Russian border by the Germans and were meant to kill and maim.  As you can see, these mines were cleverly made of wood [not Finnish wood] so they could not be detected by metal detectors.  Filled with explosives, they were deadly if tripped!   My Dad and his mates used a long stick to probe ahead of their paces.  With each step you held your breath, not knowing what was to come.  You never knew what or whom you would lose.  Mine clearing is not for the faint of heart!

What does this box symbolize?   This box is the gift of Independence brought to all of us by our brave forefathers and mothers.

A Finnish lotta, a member of the Lotta Svärd women organisation, watching the skies for Soviet aircraft during January 1940 in northern Finland.

A Finnish lotta, a member of the Lotta Svärd women organisation, watching the skies for Soviet aircraft during January 1940 in northern Finland.

So, as you go through this season of giving, I hope you will remember this little box and the great gift we have all been given by our Finnish heroes and heroines!

Thank you dear Veterans and Lottas for our precious gift of freedom.  And, as we thank you this evening, we remember those patriots, the aseveljet who were not able to be here tonight, those who have gone before, and those who lie in the cemeteries in Finland who paid the ultimate price for us.

We stand and honor our Heroes and Heroines—our Veterans and Lottas .Thank you for your service!!!  Thank you for Finland!!!

Thank you dear Veterans and Lottas for our precious gift of freedom.

Thank you dear Veterans and Lottas for our precious gift of freedom.

There is a long legacy of individuals and organizations continuing in the Finnish tradition that will make sure that what is true, righteous, and proud in our history, heritage, and national treasure will live on. We will share our history; we will work hard; we will never forget; we will honor your Sisu and sacrifice.

Haluan luvata Teille, rakkaat Veteraanit ja Lotat että me suomalaiset, jälkeläisemme ja tulevat sukupolvet eivät ikinä unohda työtänne. Tulemme yhdessä  pitämään uhrauksenne ja perinteenne aina elossa.

 

Finnish war veteran Ari Antiila with daughter Ava  at the 95th Independence Day Gala

Finnish war veteran Ari Antiila with daughter Ava

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Finnish Root Touch Up

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Finnish Root Touch Up

November signals the start of the Holiday Season.  Are you ready?

santa

Now is the time to take inventory, make lists, set up calendars, plan events, figure out where the appropriate decorations were stored last year, and do the necessary ‘touch-ups’ so our homes, offices, and we, ourselves, will look ‘just right’ when the multitudes arrive or we step out.

It is time to get in touch with  our heritage. Before the ‘whirlwind’ of events hits, be sure to take a few reflective moments where you pay special attention to your original Finnish roots including our grand religious, economic, and political freedoms and traditions that deserve to be ‘passed on’ with the Thanks, Reverence, and bounty inspired by the calendars of the Church, the State, and the stores (street or ether-based).

Before the ‘whirlwind’ of events hits, be sure to take a few reflective moments where you pay special attention to your original Finnish roots including our grand religious, economic, and political freedoms and traditions that deserve to be ‘passed on’...

Before the ‘whirlwind’ of events hits, be sure to take a few reflective moments where you pay special attention to your original Finnish roots including our grand religious, economic, and political freedoms and traditions that deserve to be ‘passed on’…

Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and months turn into years even if we just sit and breathe. In the blur that is our lives as they are lived here in Los Angeles, it is easy to press forward without looking back. “To every season turn, turn, turn…”

Finland’s Centennial

Finland’s Centennial is almost here. Late November/early December are filled with Thanksgiving, Pikku Joulus, and Christmas parties. Nonetheless, there is still time and the perfect opportunity to create your own Finnish family tradition or add to the ones you have already. Highlight the celebration of Finnish Independence with an infusion of national pride! And, share that pride with others—especially those who are not familiar with our fascinating history and heritage.

Somehow, the proximity of Finnish Independence Day (6 December) with Thanksgiving reminds us of the immigrant experience we and/or our forefathers and foremothers shared with the first European settlers who came to America centuries ago. Once here, the early Pilgrims had to learn the ways of the New World from the Indian natives if they were to survive and prosper in a demanding foreign land.   Yet, the Pilgrims retained their history and culture even as they adapted and learned new ways. So, too, do we immigrant Finns retain the deep, everlasting roots of our Finnish heritage woven into our life tapestries.

Three Finnish children write America on the chalk board in a class held for children of immigrants detained at Ellis Island in 1947

Three Finnish children write America on the chalk board in a class held for children of immigrants detained at Ellis Island in 1947

In just a few years, Finland will celebrate its 100th year of Independence. There will be a bevy of publications, events, and proclamations highlighting our trip through history at that time. The period preceding the Centennial presents an opportunity to study the centuries of relationships with our Swedish and Russian neighbors, to review the role that the Lutheran Church had in shaping our national culture and character, and to learn about Finland’s modern transformation from an agricultural, iconoclastic society to a global paragon of technological and educational wizardry! This is an excellent time to involve our youngest generations in noting and honoring our homeland as part of a Finnish family tradition. As Americans, they will learn about how the United States evolved in school. ‘They came, they saw, they conquered—and, they wanted to live happily ever after!’

As we celebrate Finnish Independence on 6 December, Americans remember the surprise attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor on December 7th.  The Finnish Continuation War was the American equivalent of Pearl Harbor.   A reluctant participant in World War I—“The War to End All Wars”, the US was more than hesitant to become involved in World War II until the Pacific attack. In December 1941, Finland was 24 years old—the US was 165 years old.   [The ‘new’ world was old, the ‘old’ world was new.] If the US had not entered WW II, we Finns would still be blue-eyed and blond, but we would speak German, not Finnish. Then, again, if it were not for the Sisu of our parents and grandparents who fought Russia to a ‘stand still’, we would speak Russian, not Finnish.

... following the Battle of Vuosalmi on the Karelian Isthmus during the Continuation War. The battle ended with a decisive Finnish victor

… following the Battle of Vuosalmi on the Karelian Isthmus during the Continuation War. The battle ended with a decisive Finnish victory

Modern History Can Be Fun While You Live It!

Suggesting a fun, modern, LA-style approach to Finnish Independence Day is in no way meant to denigrate the solemnity, dignity, and reverence of the occasion honoring those who made Finland possible.   That is always important to do.

However, this is the time of year to have some fun with your heritage. Modern Finland (with its unique, beautifully innovative spirit) is a source of pride and inspiration for many of us in the way we live, how we present ourselves, the clothes we wear, how we decorate our homes, and how we share our heritage with our friends and the world. For me, food is fun—and can be expressive in its own way.

When I entertain, I always try to have a number of interesting desserts for guests to experience. This year, my personal quest for a dessert theme at the Finnish War Veterans’ Suomi Sisu Summit was to create a blue and white dessert. It was meant to be a tasty, colorful, patriotic salute to those heroes and the heroine present that day. The effort was successful. The result was a fun conversation piece, easy to make, colorfully Finnish, and a big hit.

This year, my personal quest for a dessert theme at the Finnish War Veterans’ Suomi Sisu Summit was to create a blue and white dessert.  It was meant to be a tasty, colorful, patriotic salute to those heroes and the heroine present that day

This year, my personal quest for a dessert theme at the Finnish War Veterans’ Suomi Sisu Summit was to create a blue and white dessert. It was meant to be a tasty, colorful, patriotic salute to those heroes and the heroine present that day

My party meal conclusion inspiration was born of a T-shirt—would you believe? Try this for your Independence Day party—or any future Finnish celebration. It is easy, made-ahead, and festive for all busy Finn-Angelenos.  The blue and white striped treat is based on the Tasaraita Marimekko T-Shirt which was a ‘classic’ from the ‘60s—1960s, of course.

The blue and white striped treat is based on the Tasaraita Marimekko T-Shirt

The blue and white striped treat is based on the Tasaraita Marimekko T-Shirt

Fashion Note: My long-term favorite ‘go-to’ outfit is that same Marimekko T-Shirt under a tailored blue blazer with my Finnish grandmother’s [Pih-Mummi] pearls or a Tapio Wirkkala Lapponia gold necklace. A pair of jeans (if that is your thing) or nice slacks and great Palmroth loafers (or slinky heels) will ‘suit you up’ properly and comfortably for any event this City of Angels has to offer.    

The Tasaraita T-Shirt has been a staple in practically every Finn’s closet for decades. The blue and white stripes are a reminder of Finnish flag colors that reflect the water and the sky of our homeland. The elegant nautical colors always make for a fun and festive party theme and décor. I have blue and white striped table toppers that I used for this year’s Finnish War Veterans’ Suomi Sisu Summit. So, the dessert matched the drapes! The colorful Finnish dessert was such a hit—my Father ate 5!

Festivities for Finnish Independence

Invite your favorite ‘Finnophiles’.   Virtually every Finnish home (and many ‘wired’ Finnish homes around the world) are tuned to the Red Carpet arrivals of Finns prominent in science, literature, sports, government, and industry. As in Hollywood, a Finnish favorite ‘sport’ of media and ‘fans’ is critiquing the outfits of the guests as they exit the Receiving Line after greeting the President of Finland. I just read that the official invitations for 2014 have been sent out in Finland.   The social world there is all ‘a-buzz’ in anticipation.

Have Your Own Red Carpet Party

Finnish Independence Day is ‘party-perfect’ this year because it falls on a Saturday. The time difference [10 hours] will allow you to have your own version of an LA Red Carpet Convergence as Finnish Independence is celebrated in Helsinki. In years past when the receiving line occurred during working hours, many of us here sat at our desks covertly trying to catch glimpses of what was happening ‘on the Red Carpet’ in Helsinki.

 In years past when the receiving line occurred during working hours, many of us here sat at our desks covertly trying to catch glimpses of what was happening ‘on the Red Carpet’ in Helsinki

In years past when the receiving line occurred during working hours, many of us here sat at our desks covertly trying to catch glimpses of what was happening ‘on the Red Carpet’ in Helsinki

[My Grandparents were regular guests at the Independence Day Reception back in the ‘40s when my Grandfather was a Dean at the University in Helsinki. They lived right on Hallituskatu by Senate Square, but were driven to the Reception. The Finnish men always wondered why my Grandmother would not walk the several blocks to the Reception, but, as women in formal wear on formal occasions know, you need to “arrive properly” for such grand events.

People watching, attire critiquing will be ‘de rigueur’ as each Finland Finn is glued to their TV and smart devices. Our recently, dearly departed Joan Rivers (or Mr. Blackwell) would have a ball watching as the procession of Finnish political, sports, business, journalistic, and literary glitterati arrive at the Presidential Palace.

Mr. Blackwell by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Mr. Blackwell by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Finnish Activities Around LA

A recent visit by Dr. Pertti Rintahaka from Helsinki was a reminder of the Finnish Red Carpet Independence Day procession prior to the glorious Reception held at the Presidential Palace on December 6th each year. An Around LA With Ava three years ago chronicled the most “romantic Independence Day evening” when Pertti proposed to his beautiful Diana Cavonius on the way to the Independence Day Gala. Pertti (a former Angeleno and FACC Board Member) was back in town for a medical conference. He is a renowned neurologist/psychiatrist in Finland who worked at UCLA for a number of years. His bride Diana is an international expert and practitioner on adolescent issues.

 A recent visit by Dr. Pertti Rintahaka from Helsinki was a reminder of the Finnish Red Carpet Independence Day procession prior to the glorious Reception held at the Presidential Palace on December 6th each year

A recent visit by Dr. Pertti Rintahaka from Helsinki was a reminder of the Finnish Red Carpet Independence Day procession prior to the glorious Reception held at the Presidential Palace on December 6th each year

Pertti (with his eclectic taste for American music) had just been to a John Fogerty concert in Las Vegas. Anxious to take some rare recordings home, Pertti wanted to head for Tower Records on Sunset. His disappointment at their demise disappeared when I told him that Amoeba Records had replaced Tower as the mecca for everything in recorded music in Los Angeles. He was excited to be introduced to such a favorite source of hard-to-find sounds for even classical conductors here in LA.

Full Circle

My month of covering Finns began and ended at the same location. On a beautiful So Cal evening, I was back across the street from Amoeba Records at  a movie screening featuring none other than……. (read on to find out who—this is a ‘Hollywood tease’).

I was back across the street from Amoeba Records at  a movie screening featuring none other than……

I was back across the street from Amoeba Records at a movie screening featuring none other than……

A busy few weeks followed starting with:

Snow Leopard’s Den –an espionage farce built on the Edward Snowden ‘information release’, hit the boards in an intimate Santa Monica theater. The Funland Comedy Ensemble presented the play. Opening Night festivities were sponsored by the Consulate General of Finland. The show was written by Finn Markus Leikola and directed by Finn Katarina Laurila—Saara Wacklin produced. Opening Night was a sold-out delight.

now Leopard’s Den –an espionage farce built on the Edward Snowden ‘information release’, hit the boards in an intimate Santa Monica theater

now Leopard’s Den –an espionage farce built on the Edward Snowden ‘information release’, hit the boards in an intimate Santa Monica theater

Elsewhere

For years, I have been busy with the various European communities here in LA. Again this year, I was excited to attend the Austrian National Day where I met up with old friends from the Austrian community, the Sheriff’s Department, the LA Consular Corps, and, most especially, our own Consul General JP Markkanen and his lovely wife Tuula. The scene around the Austrian Consul General’s residence was quite an event onto itself with helicopters overhead, blocks of cars, long lines of LA’s politicians and EU social notables waiting to enter and to be greeted by the ever gracious Ulrike Ritzinger, Consul General of Austria.

Again this year, I was excited to attend the Austrian National Day where I met up with old friends from the Austrian community, the Sheriff’s Department, the LA Consular Corps, and, most especially, our own Consul General JP Markkanen and his lovely wife Tuula

Again this year, I was excited to attend the Austrian National Day where I met up with old friends from the Austrian community, the Sheriff’s Department, the LA Consular Corps, and, most especially, our own Consul General JP Markkanen and his lovely wife Tuula

[I did not catch a glimpse of Austrian former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He lives in the same area. The ‘Arnoldnator’ is always a topic of comment at Austrian events.]

Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation

LAFF held its Annual Honoree Luncheon at the Sportsmen’s Lodge. This year’s Honoree was Howard Rockstad. The Lodge was filled with pre-holiday joy and warmth.

This year’s Honoree was Howard Rockstad. The Lodge was filled with pre-holiday joy and warmth

This year’s Honoree was Howard Rockstad. The Lodge was filled with pre-holiday joy and warmth

A silent auction to benefit the LAFF scholarship fund included some special books that had been donated by the Consulate General of Finland. I was delighted with my winning bid as those books will find their way under my Christmas tree for my Grandchildren who will learn some more about their Finnish roots. And, they will be pleased to learn some more about their Great Grandfather who is mentioned in one of the books.

A silent auction to benefit the LAFF scholarship fund included some special books that had been donated by the Consulate General of Finland (pictured here co-presidents Valeria Jokela and Larry Soronen with Consul General JP and Tuula Markkanen)

Co-presidents Valeria Jokela and Larry Soronen with Consul General JP and Tuula Markkanen

Supporting LAFF (its work and its scholarships) is important for promoting Finnish heritage here.

An Evening of Jazz and the Launch of Finlandia Foundation National’s Sibelius 150th Celebration at the Consular Residence

The Finnish Consulate and FFN co-sponsored an Evening of Jazz with the Olli Soikkeli Band launching the upcoming Sibelius 150th Anniversary Year in 2015. Esa Pekka Salonen and his wife Jane were present. It was a great night of cool music, good food, and grand plan announcements. Fun was had by all.  

The Finnish Consulate and FFN co-sponsored an Evening of Jazz with the Olli Soikkeli Band launching the upcoming Sibelius 150th Anniversary Year in 2015

The Finnish Consulate and FFN co-sponsored an Evening of Jazz with the Olli Soikkeli Band launching the upcoming Sibelius 150th Anniversary Year in 2015

 

[The Markkanen’s delightful son was celebrating his 20th birthday the same weekend. He captured some great shots while honing his photographic skills at this star-studded event.]

Film Screening

The very next night following the Jazz/FFN Launch was a private screening of Drifting. There I was—right where the month started for me, across from Amoeba Records at Sunset near Vine. On the big screen before me was none other than Tomi Hinkkanen (FinnTimes Publisher) in a major acting role in the movie! BRAVO on your performance Tomi!

The very next night following the Jazz/FFN Launch was a private screening of Drifting. There I was—right where the month started for me, across from Amoeba Records at Sunset near Vine. On the big screen before me was none other than Tomi Hinkkanen

The very next night following the Jazz/FFN Launch was a private screening of Drifting. There I was—right where the month started for me, across from Amoeba Records at Sunset near Vine. On the big screen before me was none other than Tomi Hinkkanen..

The range of successes talented Finns have never ceases to amaze me. Here in Los Angeles you can be a journalist, a researcher, a professional, a photographer, an actor, an entrepreneur, a chef, a designer, an author, an inventor, a nanny, a politician, a teacher, an artist, a playwright, a musician, a scientist, a composer, an expert in different fields—or all of the above, and at the same time do it all well.

Thespians Tomi Hinkkanen and Marc El Khoury

Thespians Tomi Hinkkanen and Marc El Khoury

That is what modern Finland prepares people to do I guess. And, as the Creative Finns who have flocked here have found out, LA embraces talent—no matter what your ambition!

Giving Thanks

We have so much to celebrate and to be thankful for each Thanksgiving: family, friends (old and new), our Finnish heritage, warm weather, opportunities for growth and success—and so much more.

Let’s have Finnish fun and be thankful for our many blessings as we come into this season of celebrations of things good.

Let’s have Finnish fun and be thankful for our many blessings as we come into this season of celebrations of things good

Let’s have Finnish fun and be thankful for our many blessings as we come into this season of celebrations of things good

Please always reserve December 6th to remember the sacrifices of the Veterans and Lottas who preserved Finnish Independence. Put out the blue and white décor, light the candles, recite the history of the brave, and celebrate the wonders of modern Finland. Rejoice in your Finnish-American heritage.

 Rejoice in your Finnish-American heritage

Rejoice in your Finnish-American heritage

RECIPE

Finnstripe Parfaits*

IMG1465

Finnstripe Parfaits ingredients

For Blue Stripe Layers:

  • 6 oz. package blueberry Jello
  • 2  cups boiling water
  • 2   cups cold water

Pour and stir pack of Jello in boiling water until dissolved. Stir in cold water. Pour into pitcher for use in layering. Do not refrigerate. Pour small amount from pitcher on bottom of shot glasses to make first stripe. A plastic box or tray containing all glasses will ease transport back and forth as you continue layering. Refrigerate glasses until first layer is firm—about an hour.

For White Stripe Layers:

  • 2    teaspoons gelatin powder
  • ½    cup cold water
  • cup boiling water
  • 15 oz can cream of coconut (Coco Lopez brand easiest to find at wine shops)

Soften gelatin powder by sprinkling over the cold water in a bowl. Add boiling water and stir until completely dissolved. Add can of coconut cream and stir. Pour into clean pitcher for use in layering.

Assembly:

Alternate blue and white layers, letting each set before adding the next layer. Chill for at least one hour. Can be made up to 3 days ahead. If desired, top with whipped cream, blue sprinkles, a miniature Finnish flag, or whatever. [You will have lots of blue Jello left over if you use ‘even’ stripes.   Enjoy.]

Alternate blue and white layers, letting each set before adding the next layer

Alternate blue and white layers, letting each set before adding the next layer

Serving:

Provide a little demitasse spoon that fits into the small glass. This dessert is good to the last drop!

IMG1067

*Add or interchange colors for other occasions or nationalities!

 

Serving: Provide a little demitasse spoon that fits into the small glass. This dessert is good to the last drop!

Serving:
Provide a little demitasse spoon that fits into the small glass. This dessert is good to the last drop!

AFTERWORD

Super easy ideas for your menu while you watch the Red Carpet Helsinki happenings:

Traditional Finnish pea soup

Finnish open faced salmon sandwiches, or sliced cheese and sausage with Finn Crisp Scandinavian Beer (Carlsberg), Lingonberry Juice, and/or Koskenkorva Vodka

IMG1021

A Pot of Finnish Coffee

and, by all means:

An order of karjalanpiirakkas or any other of the delights you can get your hands on from the Scandinavian Kitchen, Chef Sirpa’s new catering company.

REMEMBER

Do As Finnish Households Do On Independence Evening

LIGHT A BLUE CANDLE AND A WHITE CANDLE IN THE WINDOW AT DUSK

sssi

 

 

 

IRINA WITH A FRENCH ACCENT

Irina Björklund's brand new 4th album is called La vie est une fête (photo Richard Dumas)

Irina Björklund’s brand new 4th album is called La vie est une fête (photo by Richard Dumas)

International actress and singer-songwriter  Irina Björklund has appeared in over 50 films and TV shows and released four albums. In the Hollywood thriller  the American she played opposite to George Clooney and in the war film Ambush she was paired with her true life husband, actor Peter Franzén.

For 14 years the couple was a familiar sight in the L.A. artistic circles. Many in the Finnish community went to see Irina perform on stage at the Hotel Café in Hollywood. She would sing songs from her albums and play the saw. Irina Björklund and Peter Franzén were also regular stars at the annual Scandinavian Film Festival in Beverly Hills, where many of their movies were shown.

A year ago the couple, along with their 7 year-old son Diego, moved to Southern France. Her latest album is called La vie est une fête. Exclusively to Finntimes Irina Björklund now talks about her new album and life in France.

Irina Björklund's 4th album consists of old and new Finnish songs sung in French. (photo Jonny Kahleyn Dieb)

Irina Björklund’s 4th album consists of old and new Finnish songs sung in French. (photo by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb)

1) La vie est une fête is the name of your latest album. It consists of Finnish songs from 1940 to 2012 that you have translated into French. Tell me about this album?

A few years ago, while still living in LA, one of my favorite song writers, Timo Kiiskinen contacted me, asking whether I would be interested in recording one of his songs, Kaiken Nähnyt, in French, one day. That triggered an idea in me: why not translate a selection of my own favorite Finnish songs through time to French language? So I started doing it, and asked the producer of one of my favorite French bands, Nouvelle Vague, to produce it – Marc Collin, along with the band’s singer, Liset Alea. Them having a 100% objective view and not knowing any of the tunes before, said it was like “opening a treasure chest of untouched pearls” that the world hadn’t heard before. That, to me, proved that Finland has some absolutely gorgeous, international caliber tunes, that have only been held back by language barriers. The arrangements of the album are the result of a truly international collaboration – my Finnish band along with French Marc Collin, and Cuban Liset Alea. To my great delight, my favorite French label, Naïve Records (Pink Martini, Carla Bruni, Tanita Tikaram) embraced the idea, and is now releasing the album world wide.

In this picture caption Irina Björklund is performing the song La vie est une fête by Samuli Putro in a music video directed by Maarit Lalli and photographed by Rauno Ronkainen.

In this caption Irina Björklund is performing the song La vie est une fête by Samuli Putro in a music video directed by Maarit Lalli and photographed by Rauno Ronkainen.

2) In the video for the title song you are laying on sawdust in a circus tent, dressed as a circus performer as camels walk by – tell us about this video and its production?

The title song, La vie est une fête (= Life is a party, originally Elämä on juhla by brilliant song writer Samuli Putro) , describes in one song a human’s life, from birth to the last breath, in a nut shell. Just an amazing text, sharp and honest as a razor. For the video, it gave me the idea of showing a dying person, going through her life in flashes. I find the circus ambience visually entrancing… and just thought of this idea of a tightrope walker who have slipped off her rope… together with Pete Eklund, my partner in crime at my Finnish label Kaiho Republic. Circus Finlandia gave us the beautiful tools to make the video happen. And director Maarit Lalli along with DP Rauno Ronkainen gave it life.

Irina Björklund (photo Richard Dumas)

Irina Björklund (photo by Richard Dumas)

3) Are you performing songs from this album to live audiences in France, Finland or elsewhere and do you have future plans of performing them  – if so, what has the reception been like?

Yes, we have been doing quite a few live concerts in Finland – the album has done amazing in Finland, and to my great awe the concerts have been sold out – what a treat to be performing for full venues – very gratifying. We are still starting out with the international scene, but have so far performed in France a couple of times – the international release was depending on the French critics, so I was happy to find out it made the cut, and that the French liked what they heard.

4) In Los Angeles you collaborated with Peter Fox on your previous albums – is he still in the picture or have you found new collaborators in France?

Peter Fox and I stay in contact, and the songs we created live on (currently in commercials in Finland and such) – however the distance between us makes active collaboration hard – he lives in New York now, and me in France. But I simply see us as in being on hiatus – I’m sure we’ll find an opportunity to work together again.

Irina played the saw at the opening of the Marimekko store in Beverly Hills in 2012. (photo Tomi Hinkkanen)

Irina played the saw at the opening of the Marimekko store in Beverly Hills in 2012. (photo by Tomi Hinkkanen)

5) Do you play the saw on this album?

The saw is on hiatus for this album, too – however, I like to bring it out now and then during live shows, for a song or two.

6) You have released four albums now but many people don’t know about your music career – what about your collaborations?

I have collaborated on quite a few albums or soundtracks as either a composer, singer or saw player with artists/bands such as Miranda Lee Richards, Garbage, Samuli Edelmann, Olavi Uusivirta, Latebirds, Edu Kettunen, Mikko Kuustonen, Phoebe Killdeer & the Shortstraws to mention a few.

Last year Irina Björklund and family moved to South of France. (photo Jonny Kahleyn Dieb)

Last year Irina Björklund and family moved to South of France. (photo by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb)

7) I think many people were taken by surprise that about a year ago you and your family packed up after 14 years in L.A. and moved to South of France – why did you make the big move?

We just finally woke up to the fact, that LA is extremely far away from family and work in Europe – something had to be done for the family’s sake. And my French record deal had a lot to do with it – I also wanted to be available when my big dream of releasing an album in France suddenly came true. And honestly – we’re quite conveniently located for traveling everywhere now – I’ve been working a lot in New York and Finland this last year. Not too far for going anywhere, really. We do visit LA regularly for work and friends, too.

Irina spent her teenage years in France. (photo Jonny Kahleyn Dieb)

Irina spent her teenage years in France. (photo by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb)

8) How is life treating you in France in terms of work, people, friendships and what do you  like and dislike about living there?

Even if I spent years of my childhood/teen years in France, everything is still new what comes to the region we live in, work scenes, friendships etc. But we take a day at the time, and are enjoying pretty much everything except the French traffic habits. Not that I very much enjoyed LA traffic, either:)

9) How have Peter and Diego settled in France?

I couldn’t be prouder of them – after all, the French language wasn’t new to me, and they are the ones who must work the most.

Irina Björklund performs at the opening gala of Marimekko store in Beverly Hills, 2012. (photo Tomi Hinkkanen)

Irina Björklund performs at the opening gala of the Marimekko store in Beverly Hills, 2012. (photo by Tomi Hinkkanen)

11) What are your future plans – any new movies in the works?

This year I’ve spent a lot of time in New York shooting a film by Emilia Ferreira – The Erotic Fire of the Unattainable. I was lucky to work with brilliant and fun actors such as Harry Hamlin, Kevin Kilner, Caprice Benedetti, Edoardo Ballerini and Margot Bingham.

I’m also preparing to play the lead in a Finnish/European movie about a historically important Finnish lady – Aurora Karamzin. The movie is to be directed by Maarit Lalli, who also directed my music video.

Irina Björklund (photo Richard Dumas)

Irina Björklund (photo by Richard Dumas)

12) What would you like to say to your friends and fans in Los Angeles?

Happy Thanksgiving!! Merry Christmas!! …..and hope to see you very very soon, again!!!

LINKS:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/la-vie-est-une-fete/id838277163
Physical copy:
http://www.amazon.com/La-vie-est-une-f%C3%AAte/dp/B00FJAKW4U/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413322895&sr=8-1&keywords=irina+bjorklund
Merchandise department, order in the USA:
http://www.recordshopx.com/merch/bjorklund_irina/la_vie_est_une_fete/
Music video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwSxU7ySkhE
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/IrinaBjorklundofficial

Irina Björklund’s albums:

Oh l’Amour – 2006

Vintage Espresso – 2007

Chanson d’Automne – 2011

La vie est une fête – 2014

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: An LA Autumn

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

The Unrelenting Heat

In Finland and in much of the rest of America, Fall has arrived. There is a snap in the air. Take a deep breath and the crisp ozone fills your head—it puts a bounce in your step and sends you out looking for properly colored Pom Poms to take to a football game! In some corners of the upper Mid West, the first snows have fallen and people are airing out their Raccoon coats for next week’s big game.

Here in our City of Angels we are sweltering in triple digit heat (over 100º F or 37º C).

Here in our City of Angels we are sweltering in triple digit heat (over 100º F or 37º C).

Here in our City of Angels we are sweltering in triple digit heat (over 100º F or 37º C).

Back in the days before Jimmy Fallon or Jay Leno kept people up past their proper bedtime, THE Tonight Show host was Johnny Carson. For years, he had a running line in his monologue where he interacted with the audience about the heat in Los Angeles that went something like this:

Carson: It was really hot today in LA!

Audience in unison: How hot was it?

Carson: It was so hot that … [insert whatever funny punch line]

Mr. Carson could have had a zinger for material this week:

Carson: It is so hot that even in Bel Air, the maids are going topless!

Picture that! If you were in the west end of Bel Air recently, at the corner of Moraga and Bellagio, there was a pink van beckoning business. This blight on the neighborhood was parked advertising its provocative topless maid service for over a month. I was surprised that the parking authorities had not ticketed or towed the darned thing away.

This blight on the neighborhood was parked advertising its provocative topless maid service for over a month.

This blight on the neighborhood was parked advertising its provocative topless maid service for over a month.

LA Finns and other students of exclusive [read: outrageously expensive!] Los Angeles real estate enclaves will recognize Moraga Drive as one of the premier ‘high rent’ neighborhoods in the mega-million dollar market. Moraga Drive recently received attention when global media mogul Rupert Murdock purchased the vaunted Moraga Vineyard property close to the Finnish Consular Residence which sits just inside the gates guarding the eastern end of Moraga.   VIP visitors to the Consular Residence (or others in the beautiful residential area) could hardly miss the shocking pink van parked at the head of the Moraga corridor. Business must be good.

Colossus Flameout

There was more heat out in Castaic at Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park where Colossus [once the worlds’ tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster] caught fire. The 36 year old venue had completed its last customer thrill-ride on August 17th. Almost 70 million riders experienced its iconic breath-defying transport. KaChinggg!!!

Colossus [once the worlds’ tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster] caught fire.

Colossus [once the worlds’ tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster] caught fire.

Apparently the fire was caused by a spark from a welder’s torch. Spectacular pictures of firefighters aiming their hoses at the fire on the abandoned super-structure from fully extended ladder trucks were timely released to the TV and print media! Jaded Angelinos will need to be forgiven the suspicion that the fire sparked at the very top of the wooden structure was nicely coincidental with the announcement that Colossus is being replaced with a new steel track ‘coaster’ that will have rolls, spirals, and steep banks. The new ride will reopen with the name Twisted Colossus. The Red Carpet guest list for the Grand Opening has not been released just yet.

Blond, Blue Eyed Snake

Another ‘breaking news’ story from up in the lovely, very ‘Scandinavianly’ populated area of Thousand Oaks was the blond snake on the loose. No, really, LA County Animal Control had ‘alerts’ out for an Albino Monocle Cobra that had bitten a dog. News crews clamored, helicopters hovered, and intrepid paparazzi were able to capture images as the cobra was secured after a woman reported it slithering on the hot pavement near Rancho Road.

A County Animal Control had ‘alerts’ out for an Albino Monocle Cobra that had bitten a dog.

A County Animal Control had ‘alerts’ out for an Albino Monocle Cobra that had bitten a dog.

Fire, Fire, Fire Everywhere…

Another fire at a landmark in our tinder-box-of-a-town was caused by a spark from another welder’s torch. A dock at the massive Port of Los Angeles was triggered by the torch and smoldered for days. News crews clamored, helicopters hovered, and intrepid paparazzi captured images of the flames requiring evacuation of hundreds of workers and restricting nearby local school functions for several days. Along with its sister Port of Long Beach, the Port of Los Angeles handles 40% of all of America’s import trade.   No ‘Red Carpets’ here!

A dock at the massive Port of Los Angeles was triggered by the torch and smoldered for days.

A dock at the massive Port of Los Angeles was triggered by the torch and smoldered for days.

I hope that the re-inflated 61’ Rubber Ducky that had been hanging around nearby Port of San Pedro did not have a meltdown.   Rubber Ducky a l’Orange has never been on any restaurant menu I have seen—here or on the Continent!

I hope that the re-inflated 61’ Rubber Ducky that had been hanging around nearby Port of San Pedro did not have a meltdown...

I hope that the re-inflated 61’ Rubber Ducky that had been hanging around nearby Port of San Pedro did not have a meltdown…

“S” is for September

September was also for singing, Santa Monica, Simojoki, Sirpa, Sibelius, Sunset Strip, and Selänne

September 2014 started with celebrations of and in song. The Finnish Church of Santa Monica held its first service of the Fall with the St. Thomas Mass featuring the music of Pekka Simojoki. A choral workshop on Saturday preceded the Sunday Service with Terhi Miikki-Broersma and the Choir from the San Diego Suomikirkko. This event was topped off by a performance by the great granddaughter of Finnish Composer Jean Sibelius, Ruusumari Teppo! What blessings we find in Church.

The Saturday choral workshop featured a catered lunch by Chef Extraordinaire Sirpa Welch whose delicacies the Finnish American community has enjoyed at the Consular residence through the years. Sirpa has started her own catering business: Scandinavian Kitchen in Los Angeles. Sirpa has been so impressive at a broad range of events, including wonderful and informative cooking demonstrations at the recent Finnfest in San Diego. She worked with my nephew-in-law, Great Chefs of 2014 Troy Clayton out of Old Towne Alexandria VA, on my son’s wedding over a dozen years ago. [Troy and Sirpa prepared and served a 4 course, gourmet, sit-down feast for 150 in my back yard out of my kitchen—with some help from some ‘friends’.] Sirpa follows in the footsteps of another Finnish culinary master, the late beloved Eino Nurminen.

The Saturday choral workshop featured a catered lunch by Chef Extraordinaire Sirpa Welch.

The Saturday choral workshop featured a catered lunch by Chef Extraordinaire Sirpa Welch.

Speaking of Sibelius, LA Finlandia Foundation held its meeting on September 7th in Pasadena. It was great to see and get caught up with everyone after the long Summer. An enthusiastic crowd including Valerie Jokela, Larry Soronen, Ellen Harju, Al Jokela, Aino Lustig, Elida Mäki, Elissa Della Rocca, Anita Finifrock (who brought her special “apron cake”) welcomed speaker Professor Michael Hart.   Professor Hart from Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks made a spirited and informative presentation on the life of Jean Sibelius which delighted everyone. What a great program in anticipation of Sibelius’ 150th. [While there is a Finnish Sauna on the grounds of the Pasadena Historical Museum at the Tupa, I felt like I was getting into a personal, portable sauna on wheels for the ride home as the interior temperature in my car registered 114º F!]

 LA Finlandia Foundation held its meeting on September 7th in Pasadena.  It was great to see and get caught up with everyone after the long Summer

LA Finlandia Foundation held its meeting on September 7th in Pasadena. It was great to see and get caught up with everyone after the long Summer

With the heat still on, is there a better place to be in our City of Angels than on the sand in Santa Monica? Then, if you are an opera buff, the season started with a free live cast ‘simulfeed’ of La Traviata broadcast from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in ‘high def’ captured by 9 cameras! This was part of a new biannual series of live video broadcasts. Picnicking was encouraged. A bike “valet” was available. No Red Carpet needed!

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With the heat still on, is there a better place to be in our City of Angels than on the sand in Santa Monica? Then, if you are an opera buff, the season started with a free live cast ‘simulfeed’ of La Traviata broadcast from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in ‘high def’ captured by 9 cameras!

Special slick solicitations arrive at my home regularly. One such promo that arrived by mail was apparently tailored for a younger generation and/or ’newbies’ to opera. While showcasing the 2014-15 Los Angeles Opera Season, the mailing was splattered with interesting factoids for statistics buffs including:

< 130 pieces of jewelry and two disco balls were used for La Traviata

< in Dido & Aeneas/Bluebeard two gold fig leaf g-strings were to be worn, and

< 18 ounces of golden glitter is used in each performance

Sunset Strip

There is nothing more wonderful than an early morning weekend drive along Sunset Boulevard –taking those curves without any traffic, feeling the air on your face, and actually making it from the 405 into Hollywood in about 15 minutes. The sights along the quiet Strip are almost serene (even with debris from the revelries the night before). Rarely is the Strip ever closed off requiring one to take frustrating detours –unless the recent rash of 100 year old water pipe bursts continues.

The Sunset Strip Music Festival –now a two day event in its 7th year.

The Sunset Strip Music Festival –now a two day event in its 7th year.

One planned weekend exception where people take precedence over cars and when Sunset is closed between San Vicente Boulevard and Doheny Drive is for The Sunset Strip Music Festival –now a two day event in its 7th year.

The event makes the Roxy and the Whisky A Go-Go the epicenter(s) for groups such as The Doors, Guns ‘N Roses, The Byrds, and Van Halen where they got their starts. Jane’s Addiction was featured this year.

Among Those Sounds of Saint-Saëns

Meanwhile, in another neck of our LA woods, the classical music Finnish pianist Juho Pohjonen performed Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5 with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra on their season-opener that same Saturday night. Music Director Jeffrey Kahane conducted.

Classical music Finnish pianist Juho Pohjonen performed Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5 with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra on their season-opener.

Classical music Finnish pianist Juho Pohjonen performed Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5 with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra on their season-opener.

Special Stops on Sunset

Probably one of the most famous stretches along Sunset Boulevard is just as you begin to enter Beverly Hills. Heading east on Sunset at Carolwood, almost directly across from the house where Michael Jackson died, there is a house on the right with many statues: children playing, a security guard, a park bench ‘napper’, even children scaling the fence for a peek … . The tour buses all slow down so their tourist customers can snap pictures of what has become a local landmark on the sightseeing tours.   Everyone must wonder who lives there and what it is like behind the fence (like the statute of the children peeking over the wall). I know I always point out the property when giving a tour to friends new to Los Angeles. Truth be told, I never drive by that property without checking to see if the population has grown—again. Quite often, I will spot something new. Only in Beverly Hills do you use a ‘drive by’ for a Museum!

The tour buses all slow down so their tourist customers can snap pictures of what has become a local landmark on the sightseeing tours.

The tour buses all slow down so their tourist customers can snap pictures of what has become a local landmark on the sightseeing tours.

My friend Elizabeth Von Schlesinger (multimedia personality and founder of the European American Sheriff’s Advisory Council) was at the home where we were to meet. When I went to pick her up one day, I was let in through the gates onto a grand circular drive. [Like with Pandora’s Box, it is natural to wonder what is inside.] The answer: beautiful, manicured grounds and (you guessed it) more statues! The interior site presented a beautiful and breathtaking vista showcasing an even more extensive collection of statues by various artists. There was one figure that looked like Finland’s Lasse Viren* (the great Olympic Gold Medals distance runner) enjoying the cooling fountain in one area of the garden. It was so hot that day, I was ready to join ‘Lasse’ in the fountain!

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My friend Elizabeth Von Schlesinger (multimedia personality and founder of the European American Sheriff’s Advisory Council) was at the home where we were to meet.

In this entertainment wonderland of a city, it is always fun to get a peek behind the scenes.

[* Lasse was sculpted in LA and cast in bronze for The Final Meter by Finnish sculptor Eino Romppanen.   The sculpture was commissioned for and was a focal point of attention during the Atlanta Olympics. That sculpture remains in Atlanta. Greta Peck was an Eino collector. She had a scaled replica of The Final Meter in her yard on Summit Drive in Beverly Hills.]

The Final Meter by Finnish sculptor Eino Romppanen.

The Final Meter by Finnish sculptor Eino Romppanen.

Around LA with Super Heroes: Behind the Scenes

Only in a place like LA where “you know people who know people” do you have the chance of attending a monthly book club meeting where the author shows up –or of attending a film festival where the director and/or the writer are right there seated beside you. This month I went to two events where the actual subjects (the protagonists of the works themselves) were there too!

Whale Warrior

War of the Whales, written by Joshua Horowitz, is a great nonfiction read. An Amazon Best Book of the Month [July 2014] and a NY Times Bestseller List work was the chosen book for an evening hosted by friends Joanne Jackson and Carlyle Hall. Carlyle is one of the three founders of the Center for Law in the Public Interest. Carlyle’s friend and fellow environmental lawyer is the actual hero of the book [Joel Reynolds; Western Director and Senior Attorney of NRDC –the Natural Resources Defense Council]. Discussions for a film based on the book are in the works.

War of the Whales group photo

War of the Whales group photo

The riveting ‘save the whales’ tale tells of the battle for balance between national security and environmental protection.   The connection between naval sonar and deadly mass ‘stranding’ of whales is revealed. The book chronicles the twenty year battle against military sonar by environmental activists seeking to protect dolphins and whales from the assault of Navy sonar. The suits and legal maneuvering all the way to the Supreme Court of the US are discussed.

Joanne Jackson and Joel Reynolds

Joanne Jackson and Joel Reynolds

You may have made a visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. As a Member and a Director of the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce, I helped with a Finnish Independence Day event one year under the big Blue Whale that ‘floats’ over the main lobby. The sheer size of that ‘statue’ is awesome. Over a hundred feet long and weighing over 200 tons [in ‘real life’], the Blue Whale is the largest ‘animal’ ever to have lived on Earth.   Standing in the Lobby and looking up, it is only natural to say “Wow, that whale is big!”

The Blue Whale still travels just off the Southern California coast in the Channel Islands chain. The War of the Whales issues are close to home for us here on the Pacific Coast.   The man who raised the issues that became the book sat with us that evening to answer questions and to provide insights.

Joshua Horwitz's book War of the Whales.

Joshua Horwitz’s book War of the Whales.

Now, that is a Book Club meeting worth attending!

The Finnish Flash

Another evening in LA, I was at a film viewing where the starring hero was personally present! The movie: SEL8NNE is a documentary about Teemu Selänne –the best Finnish hockey player of all time. Teemu’s life is followed from childhood to the latest NHL season. His story is revealed through his own words and those of his family members and colleagues.

Teemu and Sirpa Selänne at the screening of his biography, Sel8nne at USC. The movie is a part of the first  EUphoria Film Festival.

Teemu and Sirpa Selänne at the screening of his biography, Sel8nne at USC. The movie is a part of the first EUphoria Film Festival.

SEL8NNE is about our own Teemu Selänne. The film presents a fascinating view of the life and hockey career of our hockey phenom. The word “our” is used here because Teemu and his delightful wife Sirpa have been such generous, kind, long standing, supportive members of the Southern California Finnish community. From their support of charitable events to Finnish Independence Day celebrations, their warm and enthusiastic presence has been appreciated.

The film gave a great look into the public and private life of a talented, hard working, determined Finn.

The film gave a great look into the public and private life of a talented, hard working, determined Finn.

The film gave a great look into the public and private life of a talented, hard working, determined Finn. [SISU is the appropriate Finnish descriptor.] The Finns in the audience roared with approval as Lord Stanley’s Cup was used to pour water onto the rocks in a sauna! In the unique traditions of the Stanley Cup, the name of each winning team member is engraved onto the silver trophy and each winning team member gets to ‘…take the Cup home’. In Teemu’s case, that was Finland for 3 days. Teemu confirmed that the Cup has many tales to tell—taking a sauna is not its most unique experience! [I wonder if anyone checked the melting point of silver before ‘cranking’ the sauna?]

Teemu was his usual gracious self. Consul General of Finland, Juha Markkanen chats with Teemu Selänne after the screening.

Consul General of Finland, Juha Markkanen chats with Teemu Selänne after the screening.

Teemu was his usual gracious self. He willingly spent time with each person who wanted a private moment, an autograph, or a picture. I cannot wait to read the book that has just been published!

Post Autumnal Equinox

We are now past the Autumnal Equinox.   It is getting cold and dark in our native homeland. Even though we will have warm, light evenings here and probably another hot spell or two (at least until November 2 when daylight savings time ends), we can imagine ourselves coming home from the Finnish forest with a basketful of wild mushrooms.   Closing our eyes, our minds can savor a taste of Finnish Autumn on our tongue.

While mushroom soup usually has chunks of mushrooms, the soup presented is pureed to be smooth and to extract more mushroom flavor. This soup is healthier and more figure-friendly because it has very little cream and butter. If you are healthy enough already—or just nostalgic, you can kick it up a notch by adding a tiny drizzle of truffle oil to bring you even closer to the actual Finnish forest primeval.

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Finnish Fungus ‘Amongus’ Soup

Finnish Fall Mushroom Soup aka Finnish Fungus ‘Amongus’ Soup.

Finnish Fall Mushroom Soup aka Finnish Fungus ‘Amongus’ Soup.

Ingredients

1 lb wild mushrooms, sliced

(Hard to find Chanterelles or fresh Porcini preferred—here, Shiitakes were used. If using Shiitakes, remove the stems and discard.)

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon oil

I large carrot, chopped

1 large onion (or 1 leek, white part only), chopped

1 small (or ½ large) parsnip, chopped

3 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon tomato paste

4 cubes vegetable bouillon

6 cups water (alternatively, substitute 1½ quarts liquid vegetable broth for the cubes/water)

¼ cup cream

1 tablespoon sherry

1 tablespoon truffle oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Double click on pictures above for full size view

Double click on image for full size view

Process

Peel and chop root vegetables. Sauté the ‘veggies’ in oil and butter until golden and soft.

Peel and chop root vegetables.

Peel and chop root vegetables.

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Sauté the ‘veggies’ in oil and butter until golden and soft.

Sauté mushroom slices in a hot pan until they exude liquid. Save about 4 slices to chop for garnish.

 Sauté mushroom slices in a hot pan until they exude liquid.

Sauté mushroom slices in a hot pan until they exude liquid.

Combine broth, vegetables, garlic, and tomato paste. Boil until vegetables are soft –about 20 minutes.

Combine broth, vegetables, garlic, and tomato paste. Boil until vegetables are soft –about 20 minutes.

Combine broth, vegetables, garlic, and tomato paste. Boil until vegetables are soft –about 20 minutes. (double click on  for full size view)

Puree with an immersion blender (or in a food processor) gradually adding cream and sherry. Cook an additional 5 minutes.

Puree with an immersion blender (or in a food processor) gradually adding cream and sherry. Cook an additional 5 minutes.

Puree with an immersion blender (or in a food processor) gradually adding cream and sherry. Cook an additional 5 minutes. (double click on image for full size view)

Taste for seasoning.

Pour into Finnish bowls and garnish with sour cream, chopped mushrooms, and herbs.

Add truffle oil to finish.

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Serving Suggestions

Begin preparation during the 1st LA blizzard of the season—or, at least, wait until the Santa Ana’s stop blowing!   A ‘marine layer’ evening party will get off to a great start with a nice warm soup serving. This tasty liquid Finnish Forest is great to put into a thermos and take to your Fall concert or picnic—perfect for an Opera at the beach!

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Fall Is Here, The Calendar Tells Me So!

It is officially Fall in LA. The way you know is you look at the calendar and ignore the thermometer! For confirmation, you go to Costco where Christmas decorations are for sale already. A trip to any local grocery store confirms that, indeed, they do have pumpkins and bales of hay as their front door displays. Starbucks is trying to tempt us into the Fall mood by running full page ads for their pumpkin spice lattes.

A trip to any local grocery store confirms that, indeed, they do have pumpkins and bales of hay as their front door displays

A trip to any local grocery store confirms that, indeed, they do have pumpkins and bales of hay as their front door displays

The real ‘tell’ is that ‘everyone’ is back in town and the Fall buzz of activities has started. Calendars are filled with events for the next several months.

See—the calendar tells you so!

Pumpkins Know It’s So

It takes pumpkins to celebrate an LA Autumn. One of our suburbs is even called “Pumpkins” in Spanish. Yes, Calabasas, home to the ubiquitous Kardashian clan is named for the large orange orbs. In fact, to have a real LA moment, there is a Pumpkin Festival there with live entertainment, costumes, food, beer, and pumpkin carving. [calabasaspumpkinfestival.com]

..to have a real LA moment, there is a Pumpkin Festival there with live entertainment, costumes, food, beer, and pumpkin carving.

..to have a real LA moment, there is a Pumpkin Festival there with live entertainment, costumes, food, beer, and pumpkin carving.

And, if you want more Kardashian in your Calabasas celebration, you can see renderings of the visages of the frighteningly popular Kardashian sisters in pumpkin among 5,000 hand-carved Jack-o-Lanterns of celebrities, dinosaurs, and more. This Rise of the Jack-o-Lanterns is debuting and lighting up the Descanso Rose Garden. [therise.org or descansogardens.org]

END NOTE

Now that the Moraga maids have cleaned your house and the pot of soup is hot, it is officially LA Autumn! “…The frost is on the pumpkin” even if it is generated through air conditioning!

Enjoy our Autumn.

And, have a Happy LA Halloween!!

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AROUND LA WITH AVA® Suicide, Sharks, and Riptides

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DREAMS CAN TURN INTO NIGHTMARES THAT DO NOT GO AWAY

Summer in our City of Angeles has been unnerving with unexpected danger, violent death, and tragic loss. Shark attacks, dangerous riptides, lighting strikes, and the shocking death of a comedic icon have left their mark. The familiar, comfortable, reassuring routine of back to school, back to work, and back to the fall season was knocked off stride.

This will not be a fun season to look back on.

This will not be a fun season to look back on.

We ache and are left reeling with what was not a normal, carefree summer. Paradise was lost. This will not be a fun season to look back on. Like American born kids, this little Finn always looked forward to the last day of school. Kids enjoy summer—they energize, they exercise, and they explore. As adults, vacations give us a chance to decompress, decompose, and disappear from the normal frenetic pace that tries our psyche, drains our stamina, and leaves us frazzled. If we are lucky to have enough time—and/or the right circumstances, we have the luxury of contemplation, reflection, and appreciation of the life lessons learned in the year just past.

Sometimes things do not work out the way we would like.

Suicide Is Painless—NOT!!!

“Suicide Is Painless” is one of those TV sitcom theme songs that becomes a “brain worm” not unlike a toothpaste commercial or a pop song ditty that ‘loops’ in your mind for no good reason and at ‘inconvenient’ times.

Mash Opening and Closing Theme 1972 – 1983

That song was the theme for the ever-long TV series MASH, starring Alan Alda, that went on forever in the US. Just as MASH was a popular part of life for decades of family evenings in the US, so too was Mork and Mindy featuring the fun, loveable, comedic genius Robin Williams.  

Just as MASH was a popular part of life for decades of family evenings in the US, so too was Mork and Mindy featuring the fun, loveable, comedic genius Robin Williams.

Just as MASH was a popular part of life for decades of family evenings in the US, so too was Mork and Mindy featuring the fun, loveable, comedic genius Robin Williams.

Robin Williams committed suicide.

I do not remember the Mork and Mindy theme song.

Sometimes things do not work out the way we would like.

On Sunday I drove to the Laugh Factory on LA’s Sunset Strip where Robin Williams got his start in comedy. I wanted to get a photo of the memoriam sign they posted:

ROBIN WILLIAMS

REST IN PEACE

MAKE GOD LAUGH

I was too late. The sign had been taken down. The message lingers on.

zzs

Driving along the Sunset Strip was suddenly different than those thousands of other times I cruised through. With my intent came a new focus that made it eerily obvious how close in proximity [just a few blocks] the Laugh Factory is to the Chateau Marmont Hotel where Robin’s good friend and fellow comedian John Belushi died of a drug overdose so many years ago. Robin had drug issues too.

For anyone remotely familiar with divorce and custody situations, Mrs. Doubtfire brought humanity and poignancy to personal pain with a rare comedic flare

For anyone remotely familiar with divorce and custody situations, Mrs. Doubtfire brought humanity and poignancy to personal pain with a rare comedic flare

What a dossier of accomplishments and what a range of talent they shared—TV, film, animation—drama, as well as, comedy.   I particularly liked Robin’s Goodwill Hunting—a touching drama with Matt Damon, a star of Finnish ancestry.   For anyone remotely familiar with divorce and custody situations, Mrs. Doubtfire brought humanity and poignancy to personal pain with a rare comedic flare. Robin’s character disguised himself as a woman and worked as his children’s nanny [unbeknownst to them or his estranged wife] just to be with them.

A career review will highlight the number of diverse roles Mr. Williams played that showed ‘caring’ through varied, often comedic persona. How sad that someone who cared so much and brought so much joy to others had such despair in his own life—whatever the source.

A career review will highlight the number of diverse roles Mr. Williams played that showed ‘caring’ through varied, often comedic persona.

A career review will highlight the number of diverse roles Mr. Williams played that showed ‘caring’ through varied, often comedic persona.

Suicide is painless? NOT…NOT…NOT!!!

Suicide is a pain that goes on and on and on though generations.

How can wonderful, talented individuals so full of promise suffer such despair that they choose their end, ultimately breaking everyone’s heart? They are not alone, of course. Suicide is reported as the cause of death almost 37,000 times a year in the US. The actual number of suicides is unknown, as are the number who tried and failed, or the number who deferred the decision. If media reports and the drug companies’ massive depression drug advertising expenditures are any gage, we are in for a rocky future.

This Land Was Made For You And Me

All of the world has a vision of California:   “This land was made for you and me!” The Pacific Ocean, the redwood forests, the Hollywood Sign, the Golden Gate Bridge—all of those bastions we saw on postcards defined California.

Ah, yes, the Golden Gate Bridge.

Ah, yes, the Golden Gate Bridge.

Ah, yes, the Golden Gate Bridge. It was the iconic symbol of the end of the earth, the pot at the end of the rainbow of dreams. For those of us non-natives (as most of us are), our vision of the Golden Gate Bridge from the old postcards included a ‘memo’ side factoid that the bridge was built in 1937 to traverse the only navigable opening into the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. For merchant sailors plying their trade and wares—and to immigrants from across the ocean, this entry was like a pot of gold at the end of their rainbow of dreams. For immigrants, it meant a positive, welcoming “…you have arrived at the American dream”. For merchant sea Captains like Finland’s Gustav Niebaum who made his fortune as a ‘trader’, the ‘pot of gold’ was filled with real gold. He liked what he saw so much that he ultimately settled and became one of the reasons Napa Valley symbolizes California wines of quality [Inglenook/Niebaum-Coppola].

Golden_Gate_Bridge_

The Bridge itself is beautiful in its grand design. It also provides a dramatic ‘backdrop’ for San Francisco—one of the most beautiful cities anywhere in the world. For many, the Bridge was their first vision of the US—much like the Statute of Liberty for those immigrants entering the United States through New York. The regular Bay fogs present phenomenal photo opportunities —some of which make the Bridge look as if it were ‘sailing’ on the bank of fog!

As a fourth-grader and as (or, in spite of being) a recent émigré, I was assigned a class project to build a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge out of toothpicks. The real Bridge is HUGE. A project of that magnitude can be overwhelming for any 9 year old—to say nothing of one who had seen the actual Bridge only one or two times on postcards or ‘for real’!

Many many boxes of toothpicks, lots of orange paint [the ‘Golden’ Gate is not golden!], jars of glue, many many hours of work, and lots of ‘breath holding’ and some ‘huffing/puffing’ later, the miniature ‘giant’ creation was done! My nine year old mind [probably thinking in Finnish] pondered the purpose of this painstaking task. Was there a teachable moment (other than patience testing) or purpose to this assignment? Or, was it a busy teacher’s ‘busy work’ assigned to keep idle hands and minds equally busy? While I was proud of my final product—and it was good, it was not of the professional quality that brings top $ from San Francisco tourists’ shops.   Besides, I understood we got to keep our product once presented and graded. It was a mystery.

Balancing my Bridge on its pedestal on the walk to and from school was a real challenge each way—with added pressure ‘to’ because my performance had not yet been graded. While most school projects stayed on in our home for just a short period, this one was put on the bookshelf for ‘eternity’ because of all the labor that went into it.

 My very cool, single aunt Pirkko then lived on Nob Hill in San Francisco.

My very cool, single aunt Pirkko then lived on Nob Hill in San Francisco.

As I got older, I got to see the object of my project more often. My very cool, single aunt Pirkko then lived on Nob Hill in San Francisco. It was fun to spend many weekends with her. I took the Greyhound bus from San Jose at the south end of the Bay to San Francisco at the north end of the Bay where I actually got to go to and on the real Bridge. In the continental western United States, the Golden Gate Bridge is the quintessential symbol of America and ‘arrival’. No one in our family had been here before. It was the end of our “Westward Ho!” and symbolized our arrival at the end of the rainbow in our American dream.

Suicide ReDux

All grown up at 17, choosing the University of California at Berkeley was a great—and easy, decision for college.   Since leaving Finland, my US life had developed around the San Francisco Bay—home in the south/fun in the north.   I skied in the mountains just east and dipped my toes in the ocean just west. Life was good. I knew my territory—and I was comfortable with it.

Part of growing up (and an important function of education) is learning about, facing, and dealing with the ‘real world’ with all its dimensions.

The truth is, the Golden Gate Bridge is made of steel and cables, not toothpicks. It is huge, not cute. The Bridge is an engineering and construction marvel, not a monument to a 4th grader’s patience. The Bridge spans high above icy cold ocean water with surging currents and tides to permit cars, trucks, busses, and pedestrians to get from land on one side of the Bay to land on the other side of the Bay. It does not sit on a bookshelf in my living room.

People have jumped from the Bridge to commit suicide.

The shocking reality of the Bridge as a suicide destination hit like ‘a ton of bricks’ in my freshman year at Berkeley.

The shocking reality of the Bridge as a suicide destination hit like ‘a ton of bricks’ in my freshman year at Berkeley.

The shocking reality of the Bridge as a suicide destination hit like ‘a ton of bricks’ in my freshman year at Berkeley.   A friend took her life by jumping.   The real world is harsh. I was at Berkeley to learn—life lessons often happen outside the classroom. I was not ready. Is anyone?

My lost friend was the girlfriend of my boyfriend’s best friend. We often ‘hung out’ as a foursome. Berkeley and Oakland are east of San Francisco—connected by the Bay Bridge which is even longer than the Golden Gate, but the elevation is not as high, nor the water below as treacherous as the Golden Gate which is the portal to the Pacific. The bridges (both the Bay and the Golden Gate) were visible from our school locations. The brilliant young jumper from the Midwest had shown no indication of problems—at least to this wide-eyed 17 year old. I was devastated. We coped. I coped. We moved on, as you must. The scars stayed. Innocence denied.

The bridges (both the Bay and the Golden Gate) were visible from our school locations

The bridges (both the Bay and the Golden Gate) were visible from our school locations

How Do We Cope?

Education is supposed to prepare us for life.   Actually, learning is the byproduct of informed experience. Concepts are of little value until they are put to the test of ‘doing’. If we pay attention, it is strange how often things come back around for our ‘re-consideration’ later in life.   Did we learn, or are we destined to repeat the same results?

A few years after Berkeley, I was directing a stage play on the East Coast called Please No Flowers. The play setting was a funeral home, the characters all deceased—one by suicide from the Golden Gate Bridge. All went well with rehearsals until one day when the real caskets I had ordered as props arrived. Reality is so real when it is real, even in make-believe. One of the actors got cold feet when I asked him to stay in a closed casket until the lights came up from a darkened stage. Fear is fear, no matter what. Nothing was going to help—other than a stubborn and determined Finnish Director setting the example. The play was a dramatic success.

I still get claustrophobia thinking about my casket stay demonstration. The emotions of a good play and life are often linked. My Berkeley friend did not die again, but the poignancy and sadness of a life lost never leave.

At the time when my Berkeley friend ended her life by jumping from the Bridge she was one of a few hundred before her. While official leap ‘counting’ has stopped, the ‘unofficial’ count through 2012 exceeded 1,600. The trip from steel to sea takes 4 seconds at achieved speeds of 75 miles an hour (120 km/hr). Significant ‘cow catcher’ type barriers have been installed—with many other deterrents, to protect all but the most determined leapers.

hqdefault

It is hard not to think about Robin Williams who regularly crossed that Bridge from San Francisco to Marin County where he lived. Could he see the Golden Gate from his Tiburon home? What thoughts ran through his head? A recent Time Magazine memorial had a photo of Mr. Williams framed under that Bridge in the background. He had a pensive look. And, he had a Golden Heart as his belt buckle!

The Pain of Suicide

Modigliani's Portrait de Jeanne Hébuterne assise dans un fauteuil, an image of his girlfriend painted in 1918, two years before his death and her suicide.

Modigliani’s Portrait de Jeanne Hébuterne assise dans un fauteuil, an image of his girlfriend painted in 1918, two years before his death and her suicide.

The pain of suicide lingers for the survivors, each in their own way and from their own experiences: the “whys?”, the “what ifs?”, and the “if I could have only…” thoughts that haunt the hollow space in the heart. No one else can give those answers—or fill that gap. It is too personal. It is OK. It is … experience. Time helps. The questions remain. It is OK.

My experience is greater than I wish—at least a dozen people that I know for certain have met this fate. They include family, a childhood friend from Finland who moved to San Francisco, a best “big sister” type friend and legal mentor, the mother of a legal colleague, the husband of a friend, children of best friends, members of volunteer organizations, and so it goes. If you have had such experiences, you know it is personal. It is OK. It is … experience. Time helps. The questions remain. It is OK.

I knew my big sister/legal mentor had been having problems after being raped in downtown LA one night after work. Her marriage fell apart. When I visited her just a week before, it seemed she had a new life and things were looking up. I was in the midst of a move, between telephone numbers [before cell phones were ubiquitous] and, therefore, ‘unreachable’ when she may have needed me most. Her family had been unable to reach me. The news came by way of a postcard of the Grand Canyon—the size of the hole in my heart. I still carry that postcard in my legal briefcase in her memory. And, I still ask “what if?…” At least the postcard picture was not of the Golden Gate Bridge!

Finns and Suicide

Finland has the highest suicide rate of the Nordic countries. A few years back, there was a Finnish researcher on the topic working at UCLA.   I don’t remember his name. I do have a comprehensive dissertation study on suicide RAPPEUTUMINEN, TIEDOSTAMATON VAI YHTEISKUNTA [medical suicide research in Finland until 1985—presented in 2014] by Mikko Myllykangas from Oulu University.

Through the decades, Finns have arrived here excited to realize their dreams. They find that it never rains in Southern California, the winter temperature rarely goes below 15º C, people smile and talk with you, bars are open until at least 22:00 and when you figure out how to get into the clubs—well, they never close.

Just like with earthquakes, preparedness is the key. Recognize potential problems, prepare properly, and get help when (preferably before) you need it.

Just like with earthquakes, preparedness is the key. Recognize potential problems, prepare properly, and get help when (preferably before) you need it.

Soon, ‘newbies’ find out that Los Angeles>California>the United States are bigger, faster, ‘trickier’, smaller, slower, and ‘easier’ than anticipated. It is bewildering, confusing, and frustrating. Often following is disappointment, disillusionment, homesickness, legal problems, relationship troubles, and drug/alcohol issues. Without a good support system, friends ‘bail’, and family is too far away to help.

Just like with earthquakes, preparedness is the key. Recognize potential problems, prepare properly, and get help when (preferably before) you need it.

Finns are good at so many things, but asking for help is not one of them!

A Summer of Scary Seas

There was a shark attack near the Manhattan Beach pier. Fortunately, the victim survived.

ss_wg

Not so lucky were others enjoying a summer day on Venice Beach when a sudden and unusual lighting strike killed one and injured others at ocean’s edge.

The Pacific Ocean has been treacherous this summer with twice as many rescues by lifeguards as last year. We had a week of 15-25 foot waves. Dangerous riptides kept many out of the water at Zuma Beach and many other ‘unknowledgeables’ still got into trouble all along our Pacific coast. There have been over 8,000 rescues by lifeguards just since Memorial Day (end of May). And, there are several months still left in this beach season. The Baywatch babes and hunks have had to work their butts off this year!

There is an active hurricane season this year.   The hurricanes are born down near Baja, Mexico where the water is warm, but LA’s ocean water is cold enough that the hurricanes stall and the wind hardly ever bends our palm trees.   The waves do get ‘gnarly’—as the surfers say, and big waves can break surfboards, bones, and spirits.   Riptides can cause even strong swimmers to panic when caught in an ‘out-draft’.

Our beautiful and beloved lifeguards in the City of Angels have some advice when you find yourself caught in the troubling riptide waters

Our beautiful and beloved lifeguards in the City of Angels have some advice when you find yourself caught in the troubling riptide waters

Our beautiful and beloved lifeguards in the City of Angels have some advice when you find yourself caught in the troubling riptide waters:

Take a Deep Breath

Know help is coming [if you are in a Guard protected area]

Swim parallel to the Tide—don’t swim in the wrong direction [against the Tide]

Hang in going parallel to the shore until you round “that corner” [end of the Rip]

 

This editorialized version is good for difficult life times, as well.

 

Even the world’s largest [61’ tall] floating ‘rubber duckie’ launched as an attraction in the San Pedro waters lost air due to the large waves. It will get refilled and will be back at work soon pleasing kids and adults—and scaring sea gulls!

duckies

Even the world’s largest [61’ tall] floating ‘rubber duckie’ launched as an attraction in the San Pedro waters lost air due to the large waves

 

Life Goes On

Sometimes the lives we build are as delicate a ‘balancing act’ and as fragile as that bridge made of toothpicks. Life on a shelf is still a life. Someone loves you. Take a Deep Breath and ride the Tide until you round “that corner”. Know that someone is coming to get you.

 

Life on a shelf is still a life. Someone loves you.

Life on a shelf is still a life. Someone loves you.

 

END NOTE

DREAMS CAN TURN INTO NIGHTMARES THAT DO NOT GO AWAY

911 or http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org