Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Laurel Canyon

Los Angeles
I don't often get to drive up Laurel Canyon.  When one lives in the area, it's just not something you do often.  However, when playing tourist guide it's different!

Peggy and Eva looking out over Burbank
The views from up on top are fantastic, and there are several View Turn-outs so you can park and enjoy the beautiful vistas.

Peggy pointing to where Eva was staying across the valley
I know there are famous people who live up this canyon, but I wouldn't want to live there!  The houses are secluded, but the traffic is horrendous.

A shot of L.A.in the distance as we round a bend
You do get an appreciation for how huge this city is - how Los Angeles proper and a hundred little cities have just mushed into one big mass of humanity.

I believe the native Indians used to call this the "Valley of Smokes", because with the sea on the one side, and the mountains on the other, the basin tends to trap smoke, dust and particulates.

It was very hot the day we did this bit of sight-seeing, and very smoggy.

A very HOT and SMOGGY day in Los Angeles
In spite of the heat and smog, it was fun to get up on the mountain for a fresh perspective of life in Los Angeles!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Teen Princess

Beverly, looking like a Disney Princess

I had never been to a Quinceañera before.

In case you don't know, a Quinceañera is the traditional Hispanic "Coming Out" party for a young girl on her 15th birthday.  

This was a special night.  Beverly was dressed like a princess in pink and her party was a really fun party!

There was a meal served, and all kinds of tasty things to eat and drink.  I came with my friend Evangeline and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

A lovely photo of Beverly sat at the guest book

Evangeline, Mark and Amy were at my table
Ellen and Janice sat right behind us
There were so many people there!

There was a Mexican crooner on hand to wow the crowd
The music was good.  The entertainer had a lovely voice.

The place was packed!
(This is just a small portion of the hall where the festivities took place.)
One of the highlights of the evening, for me, was the daddy-daughter dance.  I didn't know that Beverly's dad was such a smooth dancer!

Their performance was so nice.  It tugged at my heartstrings.  My own father passed away many years ago.  I found myself missing him.

After that, the floor was available for everyone to dance.

My friend Laurel was there.  She had a time keeping up with her little grandson, Noah.  He's a "terrible" two!  Don't get me wrong, he's adorable, but his energy is astounding and matched only by his curiosity for the world.  He moves FAST, and he was everywhere.  His favorite spot was on stage with the DJ.

Laurel's grandson Noah kept wanting to perform too
Beverly changed clothes during one portion of the evening, and she and her dad did another dance routine - a more modern one.  That was fun!
Beverly and her dad bustin' loose!
After that, Beverly, together with her sisters and their friends - all very beautiful young women - put on a fun dance number for us all.

My camera battery chose that time to die.  Dang!  I wanted to get a photo of them, too!  It ended up that the only photo I got of all of them just shows their backsides!  (Sorry, girls!)

Beverly surrounded by her sisters and girlfriends
All night long, photographers went through the crowd, taking photos of everyone with the birthday girl.  It was certainly a night for Beverly to remember.

Glenn and Angie with the birthday girl
 (see this blog's series on their 25th wedding anniversary trip to Europe in August)
This was such a fun evening!

Happy 15th Birthday, Beverly!

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Witch House

The Spadena House
Beverly Hills sports a lot of interesting architecture, but nothing that looks quite so much like a movie set than the Spadena House, also affectionately known as The Witch's House.

It's a Halloween worthy home of creepy and fantastic charm
It is located at 516 North Walden Drive in Beverly Hills, and is a great example of 1920s Los Angeles' Storybook Architecture.

The house was actually built for a silent film studio in Culver City back in 1921.  Designed by an art director named Harry Oliver, it originally housed the Willat Studios' offices and dressing rooms. When the silent film era gave way to the talkies, it sat empty for years.

Finally, in 1934 it was moved to its present location in Beverly Hills by the Spadena Family.  In 1998 it was lovingly restored by a local real estate agent named Michael Libow.

I'm sure the house looks better when we're not in a drought situation.  This style should be surrounded by lots of verdant greenery, and it's just too dry right now to do it justice.

I wonder if they get a lot of kids coming through on Halloween?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mamma!

Anne-Berit Strand Evensen
My mother would have been 89 today.  
Happy Birthday, Mamma!

This beautiful cake is from HeavenlyBitesCakes.Blogspot.com
Mom has been gone for 37 years now.  It seems very strange to think that it's been that long.

Mom and Dad at our home in Phoenix
I don't mean for this blog to be a downer.  I was so blessed to have a loving, caring mother.  I just wish she was here to celebrate with!  I don't know about you, but I could use some birthday cake today.

Have a wonderful day, everyone!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The O'Neill House

The O'Neill House - an Art Nouveau fantasy
If you've ever been to Barcelona, Spain, you will recognize the distinctive architecture of Antoni Gaudi, the genius who designed several of the city's most treasured and visited sites.

One of these, sometimes called the Barcelona Cathedral, but actually a basilica named La Sagrada Familia Basilica, is quite famous.

La Sagrada Familia Basilica
This basilica was begun in 1882, but Gaudi never finished it.  In fact, back when I saw it, it did not even have as many towers as it has today.  The Basilica is still in the process of being built and isn't slated to be completed until 2026!

Antoni Gaudi
Gaudi was a deeply religious man, and his Roman Catholic faith intensified as he grew older.  He is nicknamed "God's Architect" for this reason.  Between 1984 and 2005, seven of Gaudi's works were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

I really enjoy his rather odd, but beautifully distinctive style.  The Casa Batilo in Barcelona (pictured below), was one of Gaudi's designs.

Casa Batilo in Barcelona
Gaudi's work still enjoys global popularity and evokes admiration today, as evidenced by this Beverly Hills home we recently visited on our tour of Beverly Hills.  Located at 507 N. Rodeo Drive, it's called the O'Neill House.

This home was built back in the 1980s by an art dealer named Don O'Neill, who specialized in Art Nouveau.  ONeill loved Antoni Gaudi's work, so he and his wife decided to renovate their house into an Art Nouveau style as an homage to the renowned architect.

All the rooms of this home reflect the organic shapes of nature and are either round or oval.  You can see it more clearly from above:

A Google Earth view of the house
Mr. O'Neill only lived long enough to see the guest house completed.  It was his wife who eventually completed the home, mainly to keep her husband's dream alive after his death.

The house is a magnificent example of the surreal Art Nouveau style of Gaudi, and of Don O'Neill, who loved this art form.

The rear door, off the alleyway
We drove down North Rodeo Drive recently and took these shots of the place.  You can turn into the alleyway and see the back wall fairly easily.

The details are just fantastic.

From what I understand, Mrs. O'Neill still lives in this amazing structure.

Mosaic birds fly just under the roof line of the home, while statues guard the vents
It is said the guest house alone took five years to finish.  With the curvy lines and small details, the project is also said to have driven the small army of workers, who fashioned the wood, concrete and tile work, totally nuts!

Tiffany style stained glass decorates the windows
This beautiful structure is unique, even for Beverly Hills.  

Seeing this house makes me happy.  It's like hobbits should live there.

I have to applaud people who dream crazy dreams and have the perseverance to bring them to fruition for the delight of all the rest of us. Thanks, Don and Sandy O'Neill.  It was a pleasure just to view the exterior of your home.

Monday, September 15, 2014

My Dear Friend Gerald

 Gerald Wilburn McKeon
November 3, 1921 - September 2, 2014

I was sitting having lunch with friends when I saw the post on Facebook that Brother McKeon had passed away on Tuesday  (the 2nd).  It wasn't unexpected, but I found I had a moment of intense sadness wash over me at the thought of him having finally left us all.

The family gathers around photos of their beloved Mom and Dad
 - so sad to lose them both so close to one another!
Funeral Services for Brother McKeon were held on Tuesday, September 9th.  My friend Laurel writes:
Jerry Ibey gave the eulogy.  He talked of a dear friend that he has known almost his entire life.  He recalled being hired by the McKeon Brothers Market, located on Whittier Blvd in East Los Angeles, to do electrical work even before he was old enough to really know what he was doing.  He learned his future life's work partly by working there, as well as at the McKeon's home. Gerald always made him feel welcome in his home and they loved to talk about everything from sports and family to the intricacies of the Gospel. 

Laurel goes on to say:
Patrick Barney gave a talk about the reach and depth of the Atonement.  He commented on three ways that Gerald worked to emulate the Savior in appreciation of the Atonement:  1. He was generous; 2. He shared his testimony; and, 3. He expressed love. 
Gerald was such a good man.  As his son Mark shared, "[My father] chose faith, believed in work, believed in thrift, believed in tithing, and believed in reverence."

Now Gerald is with his beloved Gwen Lee (see my post on her passing dated Thursday, August 7, 2014).  I knew once she left this life, he wouldn't be far behind.  Theirs was a great and beautiful love story. They met in the summer of 1949 and were married the following November in Pasadena.  A week later, they were sealed for time and all eternity in the Salt Lake City Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Incidentally, that's where my own Mom and Dad were married...  and my grandparents... and great-grandparents, as well as my oldest nephew, and my niece.  That iconic temple of God has had a deeply religious significance for my whole family, too.

The Salt Lake Temple
I met the McKeon family when I moved to Whittier many years ago.  They had lived in Whittier since 1957 and were vital members of the Pickering Ward of the LDS Church there.  For years their son Mark served as my Bishop.

Gerald was the Student Body President of Garfield High School, graduating in 1939.
He also attended Occidental College in Los Angeles.

Gerald and Gwen Lee were kindly people who took folks under their wing, helped the helpless, and made friends everywhere.  They'd often have the entire Elders' Quorum, or High Priests' Group and their wives, over to the house for steak dinners.

Gerald was an LTJG in the U.S. Navy during WWII
When World War II broke out, young Gerald was sent to Northwestern University near Chicago, Illinois, where he underwent a 3-month officer's training program.  He became an LTJG - a junior commissioned officer, or Lieutenant (Junior Grade).  He was subsequently assigned to the brand new USS Quincy.  He lived through a lot of action - what his family call "historical moments" - as he honorably served throughout the conflict.

From Billy Chaplin's slides "Gunnery Officers"

In the above photograph off the U.S.S. Quincy website (visit www.ussquincy.com), you'll see Brother McKeon on the top row, far right.

The sign reads:

Quincy Gun Club
Fired opening salvo at Germans
6 June 1944
Brie de la Seine-Normandy
Brie de Cavaliere-Provence
Hamaishi 1 and 2
Fired closing salvo at Japs
9 August 1945

Historical Moments, indeed!

God bless you, Gerald.  Thanks for keeping our world safe, both during the war and after it.

We will all miss you.