Thursday, October 31, 2013

Post-Mortem Family Photos

I feel so lucky that my parent's home has sort of become the informal repository for a large measure of the family history archives.  Paging through innumerable albums and digging through boxes of letters, greeting cards, documents, and assorted ephemera provides me with an endless amount of well-intentioned time wasting.  It never fails that I brave their garage in order to find some useful tool and instead end up waist-deep in a genealogical avalanche of my own making - ours is less a family tree and more a family quicksand pit.

I find it all fascinating but take particular interest in the photos.  It is wonderful to see pictures of one's grandparents as school children.  It is hilarious to see one's parents as awkward teenagers.  It is in equal measure interesting and unsettling to stumble across a picture of an unknown and distant relative only to realize that he is the genetic explanation for one's crooked teeth and nose.  It is even more disturbing to discover a picture of one's great-great grandfather as he lie peacefully in his coffin with a spray of calla lilies trembling on the verge of their own demise.

Hiya, Gramps!  Not feeling too well, huh?

Even better than the photograph, is the fact that it was turned into a postcard - ostensibly
as a souvenir for the mourning friends and family who were unable to attend the funeral.

Is it better or worse do you think, the obviousness of his condition in this photograph rather than the slightly earlier photos of the Victorian-era bodies lovingly propped up into startlingly-lifelike positions and situations?  "Be damned cholera, this husband and wife loved to recite the works of Shakespeare by lamplight," they seem to say from beyond the grave.  It is all so delightfully ghastly.

I never considered my family particularly macabre but we grew up with several reminders of death around the house, including this little gem.

"At Rest"
This Victorian coffin plaque/casket plate continues to hang on the, restroom door.
I definitely come by my appreciation for the absurd honestly.

Do you have any family photos of this nature?  Do they spook you or intrigue you?  However you feel about post-mortem photos, we hope that you have a picture-perfect Halloween!


Mr. Tiny

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Million Monster March: The Anaheim Halloween Parade

Although it hasn't yet been made official, I'm pretty sure that we are honorary citizens of Anaheim, CA.  We are probably over thinking it, but out of sheer good taste and unqualified breeding, we're just waiting for the mayor's announcement that both a street and a day will be dedicated to Tiny & Mary before we send out the invitations to the ribbon cutting ceremony.

"Where's our key to the city, huh?!"

This could take a while...
(photo courtesy of Star Class Media)

We spend so much time with our Anaheim-resident friends that sometimes it feels like we live there - especially when it comes to Anaheim's big day to shine - The Anaheim Halloween Parade

Andy Anaheim, a character created nearly 60 years ago by
Disney artists, stepped off the parade with his rotating head,
functioning arms, and booming bass drum.

For months and months, our pals over at the Anaheim Historical Society have been planning, designing, and preparing for this year's parade.  While the parade has always been a rallying opportunity for the community and a real source of hometown charm, the recent past has seen the it dwindle into a cavalcade of local politicians and obscure beauty queens.  Great - and very successful - pains were taken this year to restore some of the thematic elements that make it the Anaheim Halloween Parade.

Just a sampling of the projects as they progressed
at the official parade headquarters.

If nothing else, I have a modicum of rhythm.  Obviously, marching in a parade would come so very much like a second nature to someone so rhythmically-blessed as myself, that I could easily miss the parade meetings and just jump right in at the last minute, right?  Right?!?!

It begins at sundown.

I quickly learned that marching in a parade is more than soliciting high-fives from the crowd; it is an art form!
There's definitely a trick to walking, waving, and wearing a mask (sans glasses) all at the same time!
(photo courtesy of Star Class Media)

We were in the old-timey section of the parade.
The positioning worked out perfectly as we were able to recycle last year's
costumes (after returning from Japan, time, energy, and funds were low).

This cat costume, worn by our pal, Norma,
was a hit with us and with the crowd!

The two-part, man-powered Haunted House had a wooden frame but the
rest of the structure was  - believe it or not - cardboard!
The artists behind these pieces are incredible.

Speaking of cardboard, this is another cardboard sculpture.
Reminiscent of the trees from The Forest of No Return in Babes in Toyland,
the amount of depth and texture achieved in this piece is mind blowing!
Once all of the lantern foliage was lit, it was spectacular!

Shriners rule the world!
The minicars and calliope/organ wagon are always a highlight!
I had a very, very small hand in bringing the
"Heebie Jeebie" to life, so small in fact, that
I shouldn't even mention it.  But I am nothing
if not one to take credit where credit isn't due!

The Jungle Cruise/Tiki contingent of the parade was
 among my favorite entries!  Dig that crazy mask!

There was so much more to the parade, but because I skipped, tripped, waddled marched this year, I depended on the kindness of friends for many of these photos.  If you are anywhere in the area, you are more than welcome to contribute and participate in next year's Anaheim Halloween Parade.  

Join the fun!!!
(photo courtesy of Star Class Media)

2014 will mark the parade's 90th year and it is sure to be a spectacle of unprecedented proportions; contact the Anaheim Halloween Parade website for more information.  For additional information on the history and redevelopment of Anaheim please visit the Anaheim Historical Society.  Preparations for next year's parade begin in January 2014.  Happy Halloween!


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Witch's House

I live very close to a neighborhood that was built by a contractor of singular vision.  High-pitched rooflines, lava rock, decorative block, thatched roofs, bamboo thickets - this is a mid-60's explosion of tiki architecture.  Oddly enough, instead of vowel-filled Polynesian names, the streets of this wicky-wacky, tiki-tacky enclave have names with a distinctly brogue-ish lilt to them - Killybrooke, Killarney, Limerick, et al.  Odder still, is the fact that many of the residents, armed only with leaded-glass front doors, contemporary paver walkways, and Cape Cod color schemes, fight a losing battle against the existing architecture; it creates such a dissonance that it almost circles back around into wacky tacky territory...but not quite.

There is nothing I love more than when people truly embrace the beauty of their given architecture, especially when the architectural style is inherently wacky tacky.  There is no better example than the Witch's House in Beverly Hills, CA.

Spooky in the dappled afternoon sunlight, even if my name was
Hansel or Gretel, I don't think I'd be able to resist the charms of this house!

Built in 1921, in the early days of the Storybook craze, the Witch's House was transplanted to its current location in the mid-1930's.  Famously featured in the movie Clueless, the details of the home cut a distinctively-wacky tacky figure among the manicured lawns of lowland Beverly Hills.  Fortunately, the homeowners of this house have embraced the history of the structure.  Lovingly restoring its many brilliant details, they have maintained a true landmark in a city filled with more caricature than earnest historical character.

The ramshackle shingles and shutters, the paint,
and the cartoony, copper, chimney pots give every
indication that there is an actual witch on the premises.

"No Trespassing, Keep Out"
The signs are so charming that they're difficult to obey.

A mini moat, a foot bridge, and an overgrown cottage garden add so much depth and texture.
You see that tree?  Who says we don't have autumn in Southern California?!!?!

The stone walls/pillars are topped with pumpkins of equal character.

At the Witch's House, it is a Happy Halloween every day of the year!

History is a challenging word to apply to a part of the world that is so relatively young; for California, however, the Witch's House is a big part of our history in terms of industry, architecture, and culture.  Boo-ravo to the witch for keeping it so spooky!

"Trick or Treat" (1952)

Do you have any spooky houses in your neighborhood?  Is your house witchy or maybe even haunted?   Does it come alive during the Halloween season?  Here's hoping you have a Happy Halloween!

The Witch's House
516 Walden Dr
Beverly Hills, CA


Mr. Tiny

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Day on Monster Mountain

This week we'll be touching on some spookily-thematic material because, all things considered, Halloween is the wackiest, the tackiest holiday of them all!   Today, we offer you a monster story...

Once upon a time, high atop a hill in Kitakyushu, Japan, lived a monster.   The monster was so fierce that the townspeople lived in constant fear of the earthquakes and tsunamis caused by his fury. 

It was all a bit like "Night on Bald Mountain" from Fantasia.

Dominating Takatoyama (the mountain), the monster prevented direct access to the seaports that supported the local economy.

Honestly, if you were a monster, you'd probably want to keep this view for yourself too.

This four-eyed, two-headed, earthbound, chartreuse people eater terrorized the land for many years until one brave enough, namely the Buddha himself, was able to capture the monster inside a statue, sealing him in with a large nail in the back.

Today, a shrine stands at the top of the Takatoyama recognizing the great courage needed to battle the beast.

Visitors light incense and leave offerings in gratitude of the monster's internment.
We took a moment to inspect the nail just to make sure that it was still quite secure.

The giant mosaic makes the monster look slightly less than threatening,
but, ever the rabble-rouser, Mary tempted fate by acting like she was getting eaten. 

With the monster secured inside the statue, school children are once again free to roam the mountain and practice their best English "Hellos" with weird American tourists.   Is there a better way to live "Happily ever after?"
I think not.

Or is it???

Not quite.  Apparently Nami and Mary had developed some sort of crazy, monster appetite after visiting Takato "Monster Mountain" Yama so we headed to the local parfait shop.

At Classic Non 1982, the options were varied and enticing.
Mary decided on the chocolate-peanut butter parfait.

The desserts of Japan, usually inspired by the French tradition, were always beautiful and never especially expensive (desserts made with similar care and ingredients in Southern California would cost at least twice as much as their Japanese counterparts).

Nami (just one day before her wedding it should be noted), managed to put away Classic Non's signature parfait.
 Bigger than her head, it contained, cereal, cookie, meringue, brownie, cake, pudding, mousse,whipped cream, ice cream, sorbet, custard, and a small farm stand's worth of chopped fruit.
I was beginning to think that this dessert was the real "Monster Mountain."

Nami did such a good job that the resident pastry chef gave her the thumbs up!

I know many of the celebrations were happening this past weekend, but the big day is still a few days away and that's why we wish you a very wacky tacky and Happy Halloween!!!


Mr. Tiny

Friday, October 25, 2013

Nippon Nuptials: Nami Getting Married

If there is one thing that the Japanese get right - and let's face it, they get just about everything right - it is weddings.  As I have mentioned, our latest adventure to the Far East was prompted by the nuptials of our Japanese sister, Nami, and our new brother-in-law, Masa.  And, boy howdy, did they have an incredible wedding!  With a preemptive, if altogether token, apology to my married friends, I must say that Nami and Masa's wedding was the best to which I have ever been witness.  

Unfamiliar with any part of the Japanese wedding ritual, we were beyond excited for some rich cultural immersion.  Graciously provided with a chauffeur/wedding guide/translator in the form of Nami's friend and co-worker, Kasumi, Mary and I were granted the once-in-a-lifetime privilege of seeing Nami get married in a solemn and wonderfully-traditional ceremony.

Mary with Erina (far left) and Kasumi (far right) at the pre-ceremony tea.
Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the charming woman in the center.

The wedding - ceremony and reception - was held in a posh hotel in the heart of Kokura, Japan; it was the kind of swanky affair to which, under normal circumstances, we would surely never be invited.  Taking a few moments to observe, I saw that wedding guests were checking in at a reception desk and provided with a program that detailed the history of the bride and groom as well as the seating arrangements and a ticket for the pre-ceremony tea service.  Mildly overwhelmed and woefully inept at understanding Japanese, we were beyond grateful to have Kasumi and our new pal, Erina, to explain the protocol.  Following the tea, guests were directed to a covered patio in the hotel's massive gardens for the ceremony.  Kasumi instructed us to take a seat near the aisle so we could get a good glimpse of Nami as she entered; I know, it seems like something we could have figured out on our own but I had to laugh at myself because, honestly, without her instruction, what probably should have been obvious, was incredibly useful to these novices.


The groom awaits his bride.

For a few moments we sat and marveled at the brilliance of the gardens when a swell of traditional Japanese music indicated that we ought look behind us to see the bride's grand entrance.  Well, despite having been given the best instruction to get an aisle seat, we were surprised to see no one at all.  With just the faintest panic that we had a runaway bride on our hands, we turned back toward the garden and saw a giant, red, paper parasol in the distance.  Nami wasn't coming down any lame aisle; as her father led the way and her mother held her hand, Nami was traversing the rocks and bridges of the gardens with her eldest brother holding the parasol.  Let me tell you, I was a basket case.  I am an unabashed crybaby but this was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen!

Nami was an absolute vision.
So used to seeing the twenty-year-old, tomboyish surfer that
lived with us many years ago, we were blown away by her transformation
into such an elegant woman - and that did nothing to stop the waterworks.

This is the officiant.
His job duties included not only directing the exchange of vows, rings, etc., he was
also responsible for inviting God's presence to the ceremony, skillfully playing the
flute, and shaking this incredible pompom.  Serious duties to be sure but...

 Let's just take a minute to get a bit of a close up on his fiendishly
 spit-polished platform shoes, why don't we?
I guess when invoking the presence of the Almighty,
one must reach a little closer to the heavens.

I can't fully express how much I loved the ceremony.
Because I couldn't understand any of the language, the allure of the exotic was
definitely a factor.  However, I really did appreciate all of the ritualistic aspects; the
ceremony was long enough to let us know that something actually happened.

Showing off the wedding bands.

Instead of throwing rice, or blowing bubbles, or releasing balloons, butterflies, doves or any number of other releasable objects, the tradition at a Japanese wedding is to shower the couple with a scattering of origami cranes - a symbol of good luck.  As soon as we arrived we got right to work, helping to fold as many cranes as we could before the big day.

Even though this image is blurry, it is my favorite from the wedding.
Raised separately by different parents in completely different countries and cultures,
I couldn't help but feel a particular, fraternal pride in my Japanese sister as she and her
new husband beamed.  They just radiate with joy! 


Upon entering the ballroom (Mary and I got a sneak preview), I was immediately struck by how familiar it all seemed.  Large round tables, floral centerpieces, place cards, candles - it could have easily been any wedding anywhere in the world.

Having both spent time in Southern California, the bride and groom
 dedicated each table to the different cities they had visited while in the US.

The ceiling was covered by huge, cherry-blossom chandeliers and the seats were filled with gift bags!

And then there was the eight-foot-tall wedding cake!!!

The setting appeared lovely, if somewhat expected, but that was the end of any expectations being met.  Continuing the solemnity established by ceremony, the reception maintained a formal tone...good thing I wore my tux...

Why did everyone at the wedding think that Mr. Tiny was a waiter?

The food was unbelievable (not that I really ate any of it).
I think Japanese people must have an infuriating combination of high metabolism and hollow legs;
seemingly insatiable as course after course was delivered to the table, they ate it all!!
I told everyone at our table that at an American wedding, we would be lucky to get a salad, a dinner roll, an
entree, and a piece of cake.  Not only was the food incredibly plentiful, it was all about artful presentation.

Presented in a bamboo wishing well, the piece de resistance was the sashimi course.
After serving the tray, the server told us to wait until she filled the well with magical
 liquid from a magical vessel; it became obvious that the magical liquid was water
when dry-ice fog billowed out from under the sashimi.   

The bride and groom were announced and Nami's new outfit and dramatically-coiffed hair indicated that the production - complete with lighting and music cues, retracting walls and ceiling, slickly-produced videos, spotlights, costume changes, and musical numbers - was about to begin.

Mr. & Mrs. & Tiny & Mary

Over the course of the evening, Nami changed four times.
Each change required new hair and make up as well.
This tiered bouffant, festooned with flawless, fresh flowers,
was my absolute favorite!

Get a load of that cake!!!
The secret is that the cake is a fake!

There was, however, a very real cake.
The wedding coincided with Nami's father's birthday
 and there was a birthday cake to honor him.
The evening continued with yet another costume change.  This time instead of walking through the doors, the entire wall was raised for the newlywed's entrance.

To a soundtrack of Disney songs, the couple made their way from table to table lighting a candle.
For this portion of the evening Nami wore a romantic, Western-style gown.

Tiny & Mary dedicated a tune to the new Mr. & Mrs.
After all, what adds more romance to any occasion than a brother-sister duo...

Ours was not to be the only performance.  Beyond Tiny & Mary, there was plenty of music at the reception but a complete absence of dancing.  I will freely admit that dancing is usually my favorite part of any wedding.  I will also admit that I am not a big fan of the first dance, father-daughter/mother-son dance, or my least favorite of all, the money dance; they just take a lot of time before I am allowed to get out on the floor.

Normally, I would be disappointed by the lack of getting groovy but the Japanese wedding reception, marked by tearful speeches, heartfelt letters written by brides to their parents, and dramatic rituals, sets such a dignified tone that doing the Macarena would feel downright unseemly.  And then this happened...

Apparently, it is quite the fashion to have friends relieve the decorum with a choreographed, cross-dressing, musical presentation.  It was funny...and very strange; I guess they have an ardent appreciation for wacky tacky!

After the reception, we had a chance to meet the parents!
The reception ended but the fun was just beginning.  All the young single adults were invited to an after party at the hotel's cafe.


The after party is where the happy couple indulged in some Western wedding
traditions including feeding each other cake.  The kiss has no place in the
traditional Japanese ceremony and no amount of glass clinking at the
reception will elicit a smooch.  Nevertheless, the after party guests demanded
some PDA.

The Japanese even find a way to make the bouquet toss more safe and refined;
instead of an over-the-shoulder toss to a group of blood-thirsty women, the
participants each take a ribbon; the ribbons are tugged and the person
holding the ribbon that is still attached to the bouquet wins!   

Even at the after party there was no dancing!  Although, there were plenty
of games, gag gifts, and inexplicable Mickey Mouse Jack-O-Lanterns.

The funniest part was watching a video only to surprised by a photo of the
 long-ago Halloween when our family dressed up as the cast of Hairspray (the original)
with Mr. Tiny as Mr. Pinky and Nami as Motormouth Maybelle.

This post might have lasted longer than the entire wedding but I never know when to leave the party...and this was a great party!

Congratulations Nami and Masa!!!  Thank you for a wonderful trip and an amazing wedding!  We wish you a lifetime of love, happiness, and wacky tacky!!!


Mr. Tiny