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
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, 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.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Hello Kitty's New Home

I spy!
This is my little friend Bianca
My friend Bianca, age 2, was playing last night and the photos her mom took of her cracked me up.  I couldn't wait to share them. I hope you enjoy them, too!

This gives a whole new meaning to Totes Adorbs!

Hello Kitty got a fixer-upper
I had no idea Hello Kitty had a secret identity! Hello Kitty!  To the Bat Cave!

Not so secret any more!

Have a nice weekend, everyone!
Pretty funny, huh?

Photos:  BRamirez

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pretty Woman

The infamous Las Palmas Hotel
If the above structure looks vaguely familiar, look again.  You probably have seen it before, as it is the film home of Julia Roberts' character in the movie Pretty Woman.

Julia Roberts on the fire escape, in a scene from the movie
On our recent tour of Hollywood, we drove past the building for Eva's sake.  It's right off Hollywood Boulevard, so it's not hard to find.  Eva got a kick out of seeing this building, which she recognized from the movie.

Eva by the hotel
Of course, we started quoting lines from the movie:  Big mistake.  HUGE mistake.

It's fun to quote films.  Do you speak movie, too?  I'll bet you do.  We are products of our culture, after all, are we not?

It looks considerably nicer these days, than it did in the movie
The Las Palmas looked pretty nice, like it had recently been painted and spruced up a bit.  I suppose a little bit of fame doesn't hurt.

Getting that photo op!
One of the fun things about showing someone around Southern California is that look they get when they recognize something from a film.  I have to admit, after living her for a while, you get a bit jaded.  It's hard to see a TV show or film without figuring out where something has been shot - and it's never where it's supposed to be!

When I worked down at the Los Angeles Harbor I saw movie crews all the time.  San Pedro's Ports O'Call has doubled for quite a few places on earth.  It's fun when you're in on the secret.

For Pretty Woman fans, here is the glamorous hotel that our hero, Richard Gere, takes the Pretty Woman to:

The Beverly Wilshire Hotel
It's the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. (I got a bit of a glare on my photo.  Sorry!)  At least the hotel exteriors were used in the movie.  The interiors were done on a sound stage, I believe.

Yup, it's Move Magic!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Los Angeles Post Card

Where old Los Angeles lamp posts go to die...
Where do you take people who want to see Los Angeles?  There is so much to see, and it's spread out over a huge area.

Well, you start small, with a trip around Hollywood and the surrounding area.

The Ripley's Believe it Or Not! Museum
That isn't a UFO in the photo above - it's just the reflection of the dashboard.

These statues mark the end (or the beginning) of the star-studded Hollywood Walk of Fame
There were still flowers on Michael Jackson's star.

Michael Jackson's Star
Robin Williams' star was still covered in flowers, too.

Robin Williams' star
That pain is still fresh for his fans... which includes most all of us.

Someone left behind some nice artwork
 It's nice to see that outpouring of love.

The Chinese in a press of tourists
Hollyweird is a strange and sometimes wonderful place.

The Magic Castle
I spent my last milestone birthday here!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Visiting Nashville

The Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center
The Society for Professional Journalism (SPJ) just had a convention in Nashville, Tennessee which my brother attended.  It was his first time back since 1961, when he was a tiny babe in arms.  That was the year we moved from Murfreesboro, Tennessee to Phoenix, Arizona.

Nashville has changed a bit since then!

The convention was held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.  This is a HUGE hotel and convention complex that frankly defies all description!

This map shows the various hotels and amenities that are available in the complex
Jay mentioned that there were 17 different conventions going on simultaneously at the complex.  It was so big many of the older attendees, writers and journalists all, complained about all the walking. Now, my brother is an avid runner and biker, so I doubt if he complained too much - but not all writers and journalists fall into that category.

I, for example, would  have needed a motorized chair to navigate it... and maybe some oxygen, who knows?

Waterfalls cascade into the waterways at the Gaylord
From the pictures he took, however, one can see the unparalleled beauty of the place.  It is spectacular!

Southern Charm and Hospitality reign here
According to Wikipedia, the Gaylord Opryland ranks 29th in the list of largest hotels in the world.

Only 29th?

Boating through the complex

Nashville is situated on the Cumberland River in north central Tennessee.  The resort has made use of its proximity to the water to channel lots of water-themed recreation into the overall resort picture. 

The result is fantastic.

The reception area of one of the many hotels on the property
One evening, the SPJ convention-goers took over the Wildhorse Saloon.  It was a fun evening with tons of food (they had fried pickles!), a live band and even line dancing instructions.

Line dancing is fun.

The Wildhorse Saloon
The excursion was also an opportunity for the convention-goers to actually see some of Nashville.

Partying inside the Wildhorse
Upon reflection, I realize I've never had fried pickles.

Hmmm.... they don't sound very appetizing.

Downtown Nashville, and the Wildhorse
This convention sounded like fun.  I, too, haven't been to Nashville since 1961.  Maybe it's time I visited again.