Archive for family
I took some time to read through old emails today. Ever do that? Just delve way back in that one file called “personal” and see what gems you’ve got hidden away on the very last pages. Most of mine were in one of the following categories:
1. From my best friend, cheering me up about a bad breakup, buoying my self esteem. And giving me advice, mostly about boys, all of it very wise.
2. From my brother, telling me about his music, his art projects, his wonderful wife-to-be (now his wife) and their two cute puppies. Always a hint of humor in his missives, sometimes the kind that smacked me upside the head, sometimes just a little twist of phrase that was meant to make me smile.
3. From my parents. My mom simple and direct: What are you up to? When will we see you next? My dad brief and kind: Great story, proud of you for that magazine cover piece, nice seeing you last weekend.
Reading these messages made me feel good all over again, especially the ones from my Dad. From the day I turned 30:
“It’s been a long time since I stood on a stage in New York,” Cohen, 74, told the adoring, star-studded crowd. “I was 60 years old then. Just a kid with a crazy dream . . . “
Ah, to be 30 again…
You are, of course, the greatest!
Only my Dad would find a way to reference Leonard Cohen in a birthday email.
I started to tear up a bit at that one, because honestly I never believed that I was very great at all, until after I turned 30 – really 31 – and I finally got emotionally mature enough to start behaving like an adult. I might have done some good things as a professional before then, but getting my attitude together and acting like a credible human took me longer than it should have. I’ve been a better friend and a better person in only the last two years of my life. If I’d followed my dad’s example, I would have gotten to the same place, but maybe sooner.
Will and I are spoiled in both our parents, and we know it. For Father’s Day, I thought I’d share a few life lessons we have learned from our Dad.
- If you don’t have anything nice to say, you should probably be keeping your mouth shut.
- Taking care of your family is always priority number one. Then work, and contributing to your community. Selfish personal projects are way further on down the list.
- Read a lot of books. Remember as much of them as you can. It’s nice to be able to reference a historic anecdote or funny quote in conversation, and people appreciate it.
- Music matters. Make it part of your life every day.
- When all else fails, drive around on the tractor for awhile. You’ll feel better, and if not, at least there will be a nice fire break around the house.
Dad, we love you dearly. Happy Father’s Day, and happy early birthday. Thanks for doing so much for us.
Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, Debbie, who runs a business, maintains a beautiful home, travels the world, raised two pretty great kids (if I dare say so myself) and is known among my friends for her effortless fashion sense and amazing pie baking abilities. Mom, you’re more famous than you know, and people think you are very cool. Thank you for coming to my race yesterday. I love you.
Last night in Venice. Will just rallied Dad and I for a walk down to the Piazza San Marco. He hadn’t gotten to see Harry’s Bar, and wanted to check it out. The sidewalks and the piazza are still packed with people at 9:30 p.m., and it’s pleasantly warm out. Plenty of couples strolling around with arms entwined. I see why people say this city is so romantic. Especially at night, it’s got a sensual ambiance to it. In a week or two summer season will be full swing and you won’t be able to take a step without running into a street vendor or a visitor from anywhere in the world. I’ve been to London, Paris, Copenhagen, New York City. There’s a crazy fusion of culture here in Venice, too. But what I enjoyed most here was getting lost this afternoon on my way back from shopping and watching the real Venezians head home after a day at work. Normal people, living in this crazy historic city unlike any other in the world. It must be strange to live here.
Tomorrow we head home. I’ve been all over the world with my family and this trip brought back a lot of memories of adventures at home and abroad. It’s interesting to go somewhere together as adults, all with our own separate lives, and see what our particular interests have grown to be. My brother, father and I are all rather obsessed with photography. We also all like to get up early and see things before the rest of the world is out and about. This morning and in San Gigmignano I bumped into my dad while out for an early morning run. We both had independently headed for the castle above Lake Bled to check out the daybreak view.
Having Abigail along on this trip made it really fun for all of us, especially Will of course. And Will is to be commended for driving the Vito van more than 1200 miles through Tuscany, to the winding narrow road that took us to the Cinque Terre, all the way up to Lake Como, and then through the Alps and into Slovenia. As my mom said earlier tonight: “This wasn’t as much a vacation as it was an Italian road trip.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Ciao for now.
Sometimes pictures are worth more than words. Here are my images from our full day in Venice today. Blue skies, crowded alleys, and some lovely more local areas early in the morning. Ana and Danielle, those nuns on the bridge are us in about 50 years .. David Vo, those meringues (and the gelato) are all you. Click on any image to bring up the full size image gallery. Enjoy! (We are in Padua now, heading to Tuscany tomorrow.)
I got a text message from my friend Em today. She was concerned about the “Everything is Meaningless” image on my Facebook profile header. She wrote: “Etling what’s up with your post that everything is meaningless. That’s not like you!”
I replied, a little casually, “it’s Art!” and promised to tell her more when I see her next. But I wasn’t surprised by her reaction, because I know that running around espousing the belief that Everything is Meaningless is probably going to get me into trouble at some point.
Let’s see if I can write my way out of it.
First of all, the artist who created the print above is named Patrick Casey. Originally, it was a hand-painted woodcut. Now it’s a print, and I do not know how many of them exist. This one was bought for me by my brother Will and sister-in-law Abigail, and it hangs in my living room. They have the same print in their home in Echo Park.
The first time I saw their print I fell instantly in love with it. First, the imagery immediately drew me in. The colors and the texture, the loons and the canoe. Those who know me a little know that my family on my dad’s side came from Wisconsin (Brokaw) and Michigan (Detroit) by way of North Carolina, so this upper Midwestern woods experience runs in my blood. My grandmother’s parents had a little cabin at a place called Payment Lake. It was in the middle of a birch tree forest, with a tiny dock and an equally tiny rowboat to catch sunfish in. There were loons on the lake that cried haunted calls at night. A beaver dam blocked one end. We went there once, when I was about eight. This is the first place I remember ever falling in love with. We caught fish, my great-grandmother cleaned them. We picked wild berries in the woods. My dad showed us how to make a (miniature) birch bark canoe. There was a faded red patterned camp tablecloth, stuck permanently to the table. It was real and perfect and felt like a place in a novel.
I have had many days in my life where I do believe fervently that everything is meaningless. Every day, I believe that every THING is meaningless. I have never wanted material possessions to define my life. Yes, I like having nice things and work hard for them. But if you took them all away today, and I still had the love of my family and friends and the ability to write words well, and my people were all OK and not hurt or hungry, that would be fine. I have two strong legs and a brain. I could get from place to place somehow and figure out the rest – where to sleep, what to eat, how to live – day to day. It would be hard, but it could be done.
But if Everything is Meaningless, that means that nothing, not my hysterical laughing fits with my dear friends, not the hours of running on the beach, not falling in love, whether for the first time or the third or the next, means a damn thing. Right?
Maybe. That isn’t how I’ve worked it out in my head. One day in Kings Canyon a long time ago my mother said to my father: “What do you believe in? I don’t believe in anything.”
And my father replied: “I believe in you.”
This so perfectly defines my parents and it is this pivotal moment that has a lot to do with who I am.
Yesterday on my run at 6 a.m. there were two people sleeping on the edge of the Coal Oil Point bluff top in sleeping bags. They looked so peaceful. Their heads were tilted towards each other, and they were fast asleep, out in the open air. The waves were crashing on the beach beneath them. It was a moment. It immediately became a memory. It was everything, it was meaningless, yet it affected me profoundly. For that one second, all I could see was two people trusting each other and the world not to hurt them, and nothing else mattered.
Thanks to my father for the following, celebrating the life of my late grandfather.
Renton Mitchell died November 10, 2012, of Alzheimer’s disease. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1926, his family soon moved to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he grew up.
In 1942, just turned sixteen, he lied about his age to enlist in the British Navy. Just days before D-Day, he was a signalman on a landing craft, part of the invasion force, when he was pulled out to train new signalmen. After the war was over, Renton went back to sea as a civilian.
He circumnavigated Antarctica on a whaling ship, seeing the march of the penguins first hand. In 1950, he decided to try his luck in America. Renton came to Solvang as a newly minted deputy sheriff in 1961, deftly handling the trivial and the tragic. He wrote a report when someone rustled famed actor Jimmy Stewart’s cow, he dealt with the crash of a P-38 airplane on the Chamberlin Ranch, and when Edie Sedgwick died from a barbiturate overdose, Renton and Sheriff Jim Webster broke the news to her parents.
In 1963, he married Doris Christiansen Doll. He was a deputy sheriff for twelve years before launching a successful real estate career, working with numerous celebrity clients. He was active in the Solvang Business Association, and a sought-after emcee of charity fundraisers, co-chair of Danish Days in 1967, chairman in 1968. Renton and Carl Birkholm initiated the sister city relationship with Aalborg that Solvang enjoys today.
Photogenic and charismatic, he appeared in several TV commercials and a movie starring a Siberian tiger.
On July 4, 1976, the Rebild Society asked him to welcome former California Governor Edmund G. Brown and former Prime Minister Poul Hartling of Denmark to Solvang for the Bicentennial celebration. He was a member of the Vikings, and proud to have sponsored thirteen of his relatives for American citizenship.
He started Solvang Antique Imports in the 1970s and owned Santa Ynez Valley Printing from 1985 through 2005, donating printing to countless causes along the way. He loved his family, was a loyal friend, and treasured the poetry of Robert Burns, who wrote: “If there’s another world, he lives in bliss; If there is none, he made the best of this.”
He is survived by his wife, Doris, their five children, and their families. In lieu of flowers, please remember Viking Charities.
A few thoughts from me..
Every so often life brings you into contact with someone who is truly unforgettable. Renton was one of those people. He could charm anyone, and did so daily. He was a storyteller, an entertainer, a jovial and a truly kind spirit. You could not have a conversation with him that did not involve smiling and laughter – his approach to life was to make those around him happy and light-hearted. His life was not without challenges and hardship, but he approached every day as one more chance to enjoy this amazing world we occupy. He was an amazing grandfather to my cousins and Will and I. Our family was lucky to share so many good years with him, and he will be remembered always.
My best memories of him are centered around the Santa Barbara Harbor. Going down to the boat to spend a weekend afternoon was something truly special – I will always remember those days in the sunshine and salt air. Whether we went out for a cruise along the coastline or just had a picnic on the back deck, it was guaranteed to be a good day. Whenever I go for a walk along the breakwater or to Brophy’s for fish and chips, I always think of those times we all so enjoyed. Grandpa M – thank you.
William Ryder Etling, 29, of Echo Park, married Mary Abigail Sample, 28, also of Echo Park, in a beautiful Southern country wedding outside Los Olivos, Calif. on Oct. 6, 2012. The bride and groom’s families, friends, colleagues and acquaintances were delighted to celebrate the adorable couple.
The wedding was preceded by a groom’s dinner Friday evening at the Solvang Festival Theater, where nearly 100 guests enjoyed a tri tip dinner and Central Coast wine beneath enormous oak trees. Best man Jesse Hoy, also the brother-in-law of the bride, prepared a multimedia presentation with charming childhood photos of the couple and led off a round of affectionate speeches celebrating the two.
Saturday night was again under a canopy of California Live Oaks at the Shooting Star Ranch. The groom’s parents worked for months ahead of time to ready the venue for the big day, and William James Etling, Will’s dad, even built a hand-hewn oak platform where the couple was married by their good friend Jason Greene.
The couple were attended by 19 of their close friends from Los Angeles and Mississippi. The ceremony was followed by a Southern-inspired meal, drinks and dancing the night away to the groovy tunes of Ramfunktious, a fantastic live cover band from LA. It is entirely possible that this was the only time in history that Etlings danced, and other people saw.
The couple is honeymooning in New England and will make their home in Echo Park.
The sister of the groom, who confesses to hate weddings with a wicked passion and may also happen to be the author of this blog, states that this was unequivocally the best wedding she’s ever been to, hands down, and will be remembered forever and ever with fond regard.
Congratulations Will and Abigail!
The aftermath of last week’s accident has been relatively pain free. On Monday the insurance company for the driver who caused the crash accepted full liability, so my car is in the shop and I’m driving around in a rented Prius. Thanks, State Farm!
Both my mother and brother drive these optimized efficiency vehicles, and they’ve both tried to talk me into getting one. I’ve rejected the idea based solely on aesthetics, because I do not like the way the Prius looks. I like cars that look stylish and feel comfortable, both to drive and ride in, and the Prius doesn’t hold that appeal. I’ve always thought of them as little takeout boxes driven around by our space-traveling future selves.
So I laughed really hard when the rental car lady brought the Prius out as a “compatible” match for my Volvo. She looked at me strangely and handed me the keys. Then I had to figure out how to drive it. All that button pushing! Maybe the new marketing slogan should be “Prius: We just want to push your buttons.” (Especially since everyone seems to have an opinion about these cars, pro or con.)
On the con side of things, I am decidedly anti-Prius as a runner because you cannot hear them coming. Yes, I understand that they are running quietly and efficiently. That’s awesome. I am trying to do the same, and I do not want to get hit by a car I cannot hear.
Counterpoint – the limited gas usage is amazing. I have a very short drive to work. I shouldn’t drive at all – I should ride my bike every day, and I hope to make that transition soon. The three miles between office and home apparently end up using zero gas in the Prius, according to the little usage metric chart it displays when you conclude your trip. That’s pretty cool. And I love the roomy back area, which is big enough throw a bike in there, no problem at all.
(Here’s Snickers riding in the back of Will’s Prius last year.)
I wouldn’t definite the Prius as fun to drive (it feels boxy and not sleek at all, but it still goes fast without feeling like it goes fast, so that’s probably why people get speeding tickets in these things). It makes me nervous because I feel like I’m driving my Mom’s car without her permission and without a parking brake in sight I really do feel like it’s going to just roll away when I stop.
Minor gripes aside, it’s a fun alternative to my car and I’m enjoying checking it out. Who knows, maybe I’ll become a convert by the time the repairs are done. But I doubt it.
I’ve been on a baking streak lately, and not for any particular reason. But I realized not too long ago that the great thing about pie is that even if you don’t want to eat it yourself, there is always bound to be someone in the vicinity who will.
Something that always confused me as a kid was how my Mom, a prolific baker, could turn out all these amazing baked goods (cookies, brownies, pies, cakes, cupcakes, cheesecakes – you name it, she baked it) and not eat much if any of them. Well, I figured out her secret a couple of years ago. After I turned 30, I lost my sweet tooth.
Save your shocks of horror and amazement at my incredible restraint. I used to be very pro-dessert. Now I could care less. Granted, that doesn’t apply to the chocolate that my coworkers bring to the office – that I eat because I’m bored. These days I’ll make a pie and let it sit on the stove for 24 hours before I decide that somebody better eat it, and it’s not going to be me, and give it away.
So you might be wondering, “why bother?”, and it’s a valid question. But there’s something about the baking process that’s extremely therapeutic for me. Even when the crust doesn’t roll quite right or the edges aren’t perfectly scalloped, pie baking is a finite process that doesn’t take too long and produces a very desirable result. I’ve never met anybody who said “Pie? I hate pie!” If you are that person, fess up. You’re surely a specimen of tragic disorder.
I tend to keep making the same pies repeatedly because people like them. Berry, peach, apple, strawberry-rhubarb, rhubarb are all on that list. But there’s been a request for something unusual – a date pie – so that’s on my list for this weekend. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
The Deadly Syndrome has a new album out. It’s got some great stuff on it. You should listen to it. Find it right here:
Who is The Deadly Syndrome? They are four cool guys who make really good music.
Over the last five years they have produced three albums, played a lot of great shows around downtown, Hollywood, Silver Lake and Echo Park, toured nationally, gotten high marks from Pitchfork, held some badass annual Ugly Sweater Parties, all while holding down day jobs and living pretty regular lives, for rock stars.
Here’s a great new video from their new album, All in Time, which releases Aug. 7. The song is called Demons:
Their song “I Hope I Become A Ghost” (from a previous album) was featured in full on the Robin Williams film “World’s Greatest Dad.” It covers a montage of the main character, who commits suicide, reflecting on the people he has left behind and how they should feel now that he’s gone. (It’s a dark comedy, and the song is perfect for the film.)
You can see The Deadly Syndrome live on Sept. 9 at Bootleg Bar in LA. Don’t miss it – they play an amazing live show.