4 January 2015 / Dallas Cowboys

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(Photo: Quarterback Tony Romo and Head Coach Jason Garrett)

4 January 2015

We Dem Boyz

Finish the Fight

This particular Sunday was all about the Dallas Cowboys.

Hours of agonizing anticipation leading up to three hours of all the edge of my seat excitement, panic, hope, despair, agony and, finally, ecstasy I could stand, followed by now ’til bedtime monitoring of my blood pressure to be sure it returns to normal.

Next week, Divisional Playoffs and a house divided: Packers (Stacie) v. Cowboys (me). Loser has to . . .

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3 January 2015 / A Reluctant Student of Art

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(Photo: Comedy and Tragedy at Kimbell Art Museum)

3 January 2015

Tied up, kidnapped, thrown into the trunk of a car, driven away at high speed. It is Museum Day for Anastasia. One might think that her aversion to museums in general, and art museums in particular, would take the shine off of it for those of us who appreciate such things. On the contrary, it is quite entertaining and only adds to our overall experience. Once she’s exhausted all her escape options, it’s a real treat to see how she deals with it and makes the best of it.

We were joined at today’s torture session by Stacie’s twin Beth – my art buddy – and her beau Adrian, who were up from Austin for the weekend. Our destination was the Kimbell Art Museum to see the exhibition Faces of Impressionism: Portraits from the Musee d’Orsay. The collection from Paris was most impressive, with many of the famed pieces I’ve seen in books. Viewing originals in person is always fascinating as I am able to see the master’s sketch lines and brush strokes, the depth or brilliance of color and the true scale of the work. No reproduction ever does justice to an original.

Stacie’s approach reminds me of the Hidden Pictures page in children’s Highlights Magazine, in which you must find the individual pictures hidden in the overall image. It’s a joy to watch her eyes light up when the dots begin to connect and the meaning and magic of a piece or series is revealed, or when she gains insight into the artist’s life, his techniques and influences, and the world (time period) in which he lived. Before you know it she is excitedly educating me, the art student. I appreciate the fact that she accompanies me in experiencing things that are important to me and I’m secretly pleased that, more often than not, she enjoys the experience, too, without even realizing it.

And did I mention the entertainment factor? Yes, I did. We were greatly amused at Stacie’s public SOS, pleading for someone to rescue her from the Kindle Art Museum. Hence the following image . . .

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Celebration of the Life of Grandma Rose Mahelona

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(Photo: Great Granddaughter Chloe Rose Nanea Storm)

April 2013

The first things I saw upon arrival at Grandma’s Memorial Celebration were the handwritten signs reading “No Parking on Wildflowers ~ Mahalo.” Beyond the signs, Malia’s & Matt’s spread was awash with Texas’ annual bloom. Grandma the Lover of Flowers is surely pleased with them on this day. As we make our way to the far side of the house, Kelli and Nanea are setting orchids afloat in the cement pond. Before the day was out, many a keiki would tightrope along the edge, hoping to accidentally fall in. Grandma’s photo is draped with maile from Hawai’i, and Nani has returned red-eyed and sneezing from the pollen-laden meadow with a box full of pickings. The small centerpieces created from this collection of weeds and blossoms were works of art.

The arrival of guests was like watching an old reel-to-reel of the family’s 41 years in Texas. Close friends, family really, from every era of these four decades turned the day into one big family reunion. Everywhere I turned I found another face to make me smile and laugh at the remember-whens. Some I hadn’t seen in ten years or more; others I saw just the day before. It was both a memorial to my Grandma and a tribute to my Mom and Dad. They’ve touched so many lives and we kids have been the beneficiaries in so many ways of the relationships our parents have formed.

There is nothing that can make me homesick more quickly or choke me up so completely as a hula dancer. Nothing holds my attention like the sight of my Mom and sisters on stage. On this day we were blessed with the presence of hula girls and musicians representing the many years my folks have been involved with Hawaiian entertainment. Musicians and dancers from their earliest professional incarnations in the 1970s to the dancers of Mom’s current halau, Na Pua o Ku’ulei. Hawaiian music and dance offer the quickest way home.

There were many special and memorable moments during Grandma’s passing and during her Memorial. But the most poignant for me was the appearance of Mom’s youngest dancers, among them her granddaughter/our niece/Grandma’s namesake: Chloe Rose Nanea Storm. When, during the introduction, I saw Nanea reach up and wipe away a tear, my emotional control was lost, as was that of many others, I suspect.

And then the little hula girls danced and made us all smile again.

Rose Mary Ku’ualoha Landon Mahelona 9 August 1929 – 3 February 2013

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3 February 2013

Rose Mary Ku’ualoha Landon Mahelona August 9, 1929 – February 3, 2013

Some memories can be painfully pale, flat and just beyond my frustrated grasp, while others are brilliant, substantial and intense. They can be molded to serve as a means of escape or formed into something that amounts to nothing more that wishful thinking. Isolated memories merge with others to become something greater, more meaningful, more gratifying, more perfect. But my favorites are those that remain simple, the ones that require no analysis and exist neither to enlighten nor absolve, but simply to make me smile and laugh all over again. Today, my Grandma died and my memories of her are bright and colorful like the flowers she grew, musical like the tunes she hummed and rhythmic like the Hawaiian she spoke. Rose Mary Ku’ualoha Landon Mahelona was the Grandma who delighted in song and sweet things to eat; who sang her sweet songs to us, wrote poems about her grandchildren, and nurtured our mixed heritage with stories of Bible heroes and Ka’ahupahau, shark goddess of Pearl Harbor and her childhood home Waiawa. She was the Grandma who pressed military-grade creases into my Kamehameha Schools uniforms and taught me to drive stick shift on the rolling foothills of Diamond Head, my giggling siblings in the backseat; who took us to The Mainland, to Disneyland and to The San Diego Zoo, with its two-headed snake; and who coaxed beautiful orchids from rusty old coffee cans, plucked tiny pakalana blossoms from the back yard to be strung into leis upon our return to Hawai’i, and who always left a vivid lipstick print on our young cheeks before catching the Waikiki bus to work at her beloved PK, The Princess Ka’iulani Hotel. My kind of memories, my kind of Grandma. Aloha Grandma.

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(Photo: Spreading rose petals on White Rock Lake)

Dad’s Letter to His Uncle Gus Describing the Speading of Grampa’s Ashes

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(Photo: The young David Mahelona, Jr.)

Written by Chester E. Mahelona

The following part of this letter is perhaps the toughest to write for me; Lord knows I’ve started it so many times. It’s about Daddy and his passing and its effects on me. It’s been a year since he’s been gone but time hasn’t diluted any of the imagery. I say “imagery” because it was just that – beautiful, poetic imagery. I’m referring to the scattering of his ashes at sea. The enclosed flyer was sent to all his friends & relatives because the experience was something that had to be shared. Stephi and I made it up in place of the standard mortuary “thank you” cards. Daddy wasn’t your “standard,” ordinary human being. I wish I could write my impressions for you, but these are mine only, so you must share them thru my mind’s eye. This is my last memory of him; and it’s one of my most precious . . .

. . . the morning broke warm and sunny with the wind barely a whisper, unable to wrinkle the glass skin of the waveless sea. No twisting, squirming reflections of undersea coral gardens, just colors frozen under glass. The ancient gods were there; a conspiracy of wind and sea to preserve this moment of last rites in becalmed splendor.

Slipping silently from the shore, the catamaran pointed to the cut in the reef, where, in mid channel, the Hawaiian Village Hotel motorboat, its engine silent, glided alongside with a wooden calabash brimming with fragrant gardenias – a final aloha from his friends (and sweethearts) at the Village. Beyond the confines of the reef, aquamarine deepened to blue, then deep blue. Veering to port, we had Waikiki to our left, the open sea to our right and Diamond Head between the twin bows. The hotels stood tall in rising morning light, so splendid in their dress whites and framed by the verdant Koolaus. Daddy was making his last parade.

There was no sensation of forward motion but the barely perceptible nudge of swells reminded you that you were suspended in time and space. The first plumeria blossoms over the side put a smile in the sea – plumerias have always been a happy flower for me. Passing astern it gave a reference to motion. It was unbelievable that we were moving at all, but the casual trail of plumerias made it true. As I watched the plumerias, I thought about what my Japanese friend, the florist, said when I asked for tuberose blossoms, “All my best plumerias for yo’ foddah; they mo’ bettah, brah, they float; the tuberose sinks.” He was right, they were a parade of life; of children merrily trailing over the meadows of the Pacific. I couldn’t help but visualize them as his grandchildren and his great grandchildren to come. We’ll never run out of plumerias; or the essence of them. The visual experience was overwhelmingly beautiful and simple and pure – I found myself smiling and feeling good for Daddy. There was nothing that could make me feel so good for him – other than his being here, alive, strumming his uke with a cold Primo close by.

In moments the ocean was a garden of flowers; flowers with roots of white ash that spiraled to the depths below. I whispered, “Aloha, Daddy, I love you” and eased a vibrant carnation lei into the deep blue ocean. The striking color contrast of red against blue was surreal – more vivid than life itself. As a professional designer/artist I’ve never seen colors more beautiful. I sat in awe at this moment of classic Hawaiian elegance and remarked to myself that this was a proud and sacred moment of final filial devotion for me and I hoped he would be as proud too. I thought nothing could be more meaningful, when suddenly off our port bow 5 porpoises surfaced in graceful unison – a wonderful omen in any nautical culture, but the ultimate blessing in our Hawaiian heritage as they twice more surfaced to complete the triad. The ancient Polynesian powers had bestowed a magnificent Aloha – a fitting tribute to a son’s hero. The memory is personal and ours to keep forever.

That’s the way I would have wanted it to be; that’s the way it was.

2 January 2015 / Gustave Caillebotte

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2 January 2015

Anxiously awaiting the safe arrival of my twin-n-law Beth and her best beau Adrian this evening. It should be a weekend full of great food, drink, conversation and, of course, art. One twin loves art, the other . . .  well, let’s just say she’s a great sport and indulges her sister and her husband. As such, one likely destination this weekend is The Kimbell Art Museum. So I took a moment to browse online through their current and future exhibitions. Coming to Fort Worth in November is an exhibition called “Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye,” which prompted today’s query: who is Caillebotte?

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Gustave Caillebotte, 1848-1894

Born into a wealthy family, Caillebotte trained to be an engineer but became interested in painting and studied at L’École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He met Renoir and Monet in 1874 and showed his works at the Impressionist exhibition of 1876 and its successors. Caillebotte became the chief organizer, promoter and financial backer of the Impressionist exhibitions for the next six years, and used his wealth to purchase works by other Impressionists, notably Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Cezanne, Degas, Sisley, and Berthe.

Caillebotte was an artist of remarkable abilities, but his posthumous reputation languished because most of his paintings remained in the hands of his family and were neither exhibited nor reproduced until the second half of the 20th century.

Viewing his work online, I was immediately struck by his severe perspectives, dramatic points-of-view and the almost-photographic framing of his scenes. Evidently so, too, have historians and critics. Amongst the comments I came across:

” . . . some of the movement’s most daring and bold paintings.”

“Experimenting with radical points of view and audacious perspective . . . ”

“extraordinary vision”

” . . . paintings were quite controversial due to their exaggerated, plunging perspective.”

“Cropping and “zooming-in” may also be the result of his interest in photography . . . ”

I was pleased to note that among the pieces on display in November will be the one painting I appreciated the most, Floor Scrapers.

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1 January 2015 / Five Stars

Five Stars

1 January 2015

Feed the cat, start the coffee. When does the “new” in year begin?

Fifteen! This year my son will turn 25, Mom and Dad 70, and my parents will be blessed with their first great-grandchild, Malia her first grandchild, courtesy of Ian and Jessica.

We got the vodka, amaretto, champagne and ice last night but forgot the chocolate milk for this morning. Mom swears by it as a hangover remedy, though Dad advocates a Frosty from Wendy’s. An unusual New Year’s Eve for Stac and me, as it was spent in our own home, just the two of us. It had been a busy holiday season, lots of family, food and fun but very little rest. The thought of going out on NYE was exhausting in itself. But the evening was no less fun for staying in. In this amazing electronic age, sharing laughs and experiences in near-realtime with friends anywhere on Earth is possible. Stac had her wine and I had my martini, and the four of us sang and danced the night away in our socks on the living room hardwood floor. In the morning we discovered (1) just how sticky spilled almond liqueur really is and (2) an empty vodka bottle brings 5 cents in Iowa! And why is there no computer key for the cents symbol?

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s Resolutions. It’s just a prelude to failure, in my case. But in 2015 there are some goals I wish to accomplish, so I might as well label them “resolutions.” They include:

  • A daily journal entry
  • Completion of the books I’ve begun for each of my children
  • Plunking on the guitar every day
  • Learning Italian and Portuguese
  • Following up on the unanswered questions that arise each day (ie: learning something new)

So, unanswered question number one, which came up during yesterday’s staff lunch at Oddfellows in Bishop Arts District: who are the soldiers who attained 5-star rank? If you are wondering why 12 designers would be discussing army generals over lunch, it began with the statement, “Robert E. Lee and . . . the other guy,” and went downhill from there. Responses were quick to follow: “You mean Robert E. Lee and The Winner?” “Don’t tell me, you were born in the South, right?” In short order, some of the greener members made the connection between CSA General Robert E. Lee and the car with the horn that played “Dixie” from Dukes of Hazard. Ah, youth. It was established that “the other guy” was Ulysses S. Grant, and that he did NOT also command in World War I, but did become President of the United States. During this free-for-all it was, at some point, suggested that George S. Patton was a 5-star general, which brings us back to the beginning of this paragraph: who are the soldiers who attained 5-star rank? They are Generals George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, Hap Arnold (Army Air Corps) and Omar Bradley. Contrary to popular belief (at this table, at least) Old Blood and Guts Patton was a 4-star. In addition, there have been four sailors who have attained the equivalent naval 5-star rank of Fleet Admiral: Admirals William Leahy, Ernest King, Chester Nimitz and Bull Halsey.

The Army 5-star rank is that of General of the Army. Surprisingly, it is the 2nd highest rank. The highest is that of General of the Armies, plural, though the meaning and perception of this rank is thoroughly muddled. Another interesting fact I discovered in my quick research is that the U.S. briefly considered the rank of Field Marshal. But besides the fact that the term marshal is associated with law enforcement in this country, it would also have resulted in George Marshall being referred to as Field Marshal Marshall, which was considered quite undignified.

Now then, Rose Bowl, Go Marcus!

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Days with Dad

IMG_47355x7(Photo: Portrait of Chester E. Mahelona by Jim Curtis, 1965)

The Artist I was born the son of an artist. Not just a talented guy. A real artist. The beatnik living in a San Francisco garage, subsisting by selling his mod paintings. The kind that could do it all – draw, paint, carve, sculpt, sing, play and write. The kind for whom women would remove their clothes so that he could render their bodies in charcoal. The kind who brought forth the images of gods and goddesses from stones and trees.

The smell of mineral spirits and oil paints infused my childhood world (that and the Johnson’s Baby Oil that Mom slathered liberally over her first-born), and in breathing the fumes I was doomed to follow in my father’s footsteps. I was awed as he showed me to see things in the world as the really were, rather than how they were portrayed in coloring books. Wow, the sun doesn’t always reside in the top left corner of the sky! Eyes and lips are shaped nothing like footballs! Flowers don’t all look like daisies! Dad demonstrated that art is more than mere portraiture. It is laughter, and anger, and sound effects, and motion, and discovery. Best of all, it is boundless. There are no rules.. Color the bunny army green. Color inside and outside and on top of the lines. Go up and down, sideways, diagonally. Then peel the crayon like a banana and see what army green tastes like. The world is yours to create in whatever fashion you visulaize, in life as it is in art.

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