You Too

October 28, 2009

As I mentally check my list of firsts (first autumn, first Thanksgiving, first trip to Fresno….without my mom), it was impossible for me to ignore the significance of this past weekend. This was my first trip back to CA, and my first opportunity to be with any of my mom’s family since the memorial service last summer.

Last spring, my cousin Victoria had offered me a ticket to see U2 play at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. My mom’s situation was rapidly becoming very alarming around that time, and the concert wasn’t until October…but I agreed to go anyway – U2 is kind of an iconic band for my generation, and I figured that I might be needing something fun to look forward to….and as it turned out, the trip became a great opportunity to try and reconnect with my family (as well as to see an epic concert with my cousin).

When I arranged for the flight from Dallas to LA, I first asked my grandmother if I could spend the night before the concert at her house. She generously agreed, and I was happy to learn that as word of my visit spread, several relatives arranged to make time to come by and visit at my grandmother’s house as well: Irene made dinner for us all, and Lydia, her husband John, my cousin Josh, my grandmother and aunt Mague all came together for a great meal at my grandmother’s table.

The next day, Lydia and I took my grandmother to church at St. Benedicts in Montebello. This is the same church where my parents were married 41 years ago. Of course, I wasn’t present on that day, but as I stared at the marble steps at the altar where I’ve seen pictures of my mom and dad kneeling during the ceremony, I could not help but think of my mom as a young bride, and how my parents must have felt on that day, on those marble steps.

After church, we joined my uncle Joe and his family, at La Playa Baja…a Mexican restaurant that seems to ooze “Montebello nostalgia” for me. Even the “way-too-loud ranchera music” playing on the juke box.

Although I had been looking forward to this visit to LA, as I said, it was well-defined in my mind as another “first”. And as with any first-time experience, there was a sense of anxiety associated with walking into this realtime “time capsule” of my mother’s life:  Her home. Her mother. Her family. Her neighborhood. Her church.

The whole time I was there I could only imagine how hard it must be for my relatives, and especially my grandmother to see me, my mother’s son. This was their “first time” too.

After breakfast, we all returned to my grandmother’s house where we sat in her backyard – that same backyard that hosted my parent’s wedding reception, and admired my grandmother’s roses, sago palms and citrus trees. We all sat there enjoying the warm, Southern California morning together for quite some time.

 This was the day of the concert. Now, I can probably count on one hand the number of concerts that I have been to in my life, so I can’t establish a very reliable comparison for you. But the concert was HUGE! Buses shuttled people to the Rose Bowl from Old Town Pasadena for HOURS before the concert. Lines to get onto the shuttle, lines to get into the stadium, lines to buy a soft drink seemed endless.

But Victoria had everything planned. A hotel room at the Langham (formerly the Ritz Carlton Huntington) not far from the Rose Bowl, concert tickets, shuttle tickets….all we had to do was strategically navigate through the city of Pasadena which had essentially been hijacked by concert goers that day.

Once we found our seats, I realized that one of my mom’s favorite bands and singers would be opening for U2 – The Black Eyed Peas. It was hard to suppress the urge to call her and let her know that I was gonna see Fergie.

The concert was amazing. The structure of the stage was a like a spaceship….with a central tower held into place by four long spider legs that held huge banks of speakers. A cylinder of flat screens was at the core of the tower. The flat screens could be massed into a single cylinder at the base of the tower…or the screens could separate into a web descending all the way down to the stage. The stage itself was circular, with VIP seating all around it, and then there was a second ring-shaped stage that the band could access via bridges that extended over the VIP seating.


While I was not crazy about some of the newer stuff that U2 played, it was definitely worth all of the waiting in lines to hear some of the older stuff that I used to listen to in high school. The whole stadium seemed to have a religious experience during the guitar entrance for “I Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For”….in fact, Bono didn’t have to sing much of the song at all – he let 100,000 fans sing it for him.

It was very interesting to sit in that crowd. U2 has been around for decades, and the crowd represented a huge diversity of people. One guy, who had to be my father’s age sat right in front of us smoking something that I am told smelled very similar to an illegal substance. But I hear that sorta thing happens a lot in California.

After the concert it was nice to retire to the down pillows and mattresses of the Langham. The next morning, Victoria and I went to breakfast near Old Town and then I drove her in my rental car back to her house before heading off to LAX for the return flight home.

The last time I had visited Victoria, she was living in an apartment in West Hollywood not far from Cedars Sinai where she works. But she recently moved up into the canyons, and although she had described the place to me several times, I could not quite picture it.

Her house sits deep in the canyons above Los Angeles, not far from Lancaster. Victoria and her roommate share the house and the property with several dogs and horses and they all seem very happy living in their very scenic landscape.


So my list of firsts was quite substantial this weekend. Though it kind of felt like my mom was with me all along the way. At least I hope she was – she would not have wanted to miss Fergie.



It’s been a while since we have provided any updates regarding the Move Room at EPU…

But rest assured that all of the plans are moving forward and are slowly coming into focus. As we had previously communicated, the centerpiece of this project will be a mural that straddles a corner of the Move Room based on an original painting by Chole’s sister, Mague.

 We have spent the past several weeks…OK, months… discussing the content of the painting and the best method for applying the mural onto the walls of the room.  In the end, we decided that painting the mural directly onto the wall would be logistically unfeasible and would be difficult to maintain in the future.

The Art Director of the project and another Avina sister, Lydia, discovered a vendor that could reproduce the painting onto a durable, vinyl wall covering…perfect for a Move Room filled with toddlers and little, sticky hands.  

Mague has already produced a sketch of the mural that will go on the wall and, it’s straight-up amazing. While the final version is still being developed, here is a mini-preview.

mural cropped

 The final painting should be finished in January. It will take a few weeks to transfer the painting onto the vinyl media and then another few weeks to hang the panel(s) and complete the project. So optimistically, EPU will have a new Move Room, filled with the art and imagery that Chole would have loved by early Spring 2010.

Family Tree

October 6, 2009

Back in July I blogged about a special sago palm that has been the focal point of my grandmother’s backyard in Montebello for all of my life. Here is the tree…and my grandmother, Emma Avina. The planter was recently repainted by the artistic hands of my Aunt Lydia, following a color pallette similar to what my grandfather had chosen decades ago….


Greetings from Los Angeles

October 6, 2009

CaliSubmitted by Auntie Lydia

Parental Supervision

October 6, 2009

There are rules in life that parents seem to impress upon their children for no other reason than to maintain order in an otherwise chaotic world: “elbows off the table”, “tuck in your shirt”. There’s a long list of these universal-codes-of conduct that seem to be passed from generation to generation; rules that would create no crisis should they be violated, yet remain sacrosanct nonetheless.

When it came to many of these rules, the Jackson household seemed liberal in comparison with the benchmark equivalents in the neighborhood. That being said, I had a habit that my mother had tried in many ways to discourage as a child.  As the years passed however, the habit only worsened, even after I moved from my parent’s house into my dorm room, into various rentals and eventually even into my own home.

I can still remember my mom’s face when she looked into my bedroom from the hallway during her last visit to Dallas. “When are you going to pick up your clothes off the floor?”

Not having an answer, I quickly kicked the offending pile under the bed and closed the bedroom door.

Last weekend was my dad’s first visit to Dallas without my mom. We had a great time, working on projects around the house (I now know how to start my new lawn edger that he gave me in April), exploring the local eateries, and we even attended a lecture at SMU.

Dad is not the type to notice a few clothes on the floor…or at least he would never mention it to his much-too-old-not-to-know-any-better son. But while mom was not physically present during this visit, her hopes and dreams that her first-born would someday master some basic housekeeping skills had yet to be realized…I tried to keep the door to my room closed as usual during these parental visitations.

It’s not that I am a particularly messy guy. I am pretty good around other areas of the house. The dishes get washed, the lawn gets mowed, and the laundry gets done. And it’s not that I was “rebelling against system” by leaving my clothes all over the floor…it’s just that I had nowhere to put them.

So last Friday, I took dad to the design district near downtown Dallas. My goal was to find a piece of furniture that would forever resolve this issue that my mother had spent forever trying to solve. The solution was found in an old armoire.

TG 001

It’s made out of walnut and stands almost as high as my ceiling. Which means that it had to be dismantled and rebuilt inside my bedroom (which the owner of the shop that I purchased it from was surprisingly willing to do…). My dad seemed to enjoy seeing how the old armoire had been built and watching it get reassembled by the store owner. I was freaking out over watching a large purchase broken down into pieces scattered all over my front yard.

 A simple furniture delivery slowly turned into a 2-hour project. Once again, dad and I found ourselves in a “big as Texas” adventure, which has become a tradition during these parental visits to Dallas (tornado sirens come to mind).

But the armoire was rebuilt perfectly. It’s beautiful, functional, and built to stay with me forever. And all of the clothes are off my floor now; I think that my mom would have especially enjoyed this visit.  TG 002