Saturday, May 12, 2007

Wondering if I'm the heir apparent ... part of a continuing story ... ?

In that strange way that life is unfolding these days, I found myself standing in the art gallery/home of my friend's neighbors in Mendocino -- a noted architect and his wife -- now retired. We were just about to set down our cocktail glasses and head for home when I noticed a poster-sized photograph of a building I knew well. Our host had brought us into his working studio. The picture I immediately recognized as the beautiful Ordway/Kaiser edifice that was built alongside picturesque Lake Merritt in Oakland. What I hadn't known until that moment was that this masterpiece was designed by our host and his firm years ago. All thought of leaving into the early evening (hoping for a sunset to behold from the window wall of the living room back at Tom's) vanished into the next half hour of learning more about the adventure of envisioning the brilliant design and bringing it into being. Our host's eyes lit up as he became animated with his own memories as he related how, (pointing to another huge photograph of the original design that Edgar Kaiser had rejected) they'd then created the one that I knew so well.

I'd fairly recently had occasion to attend a meeting there at the corporate headquarters with members of our staff and the Kaiser archivists to consider the possibility of our obtaining the "Think Big" Henry J. Kaiser exhibit as a permanent installation at the Rosie the Riveter World War II/Home Front Historical National Park in Richmond. It was a successful meeting -- but my mind never quite left the sight of that beautiful roof garden (atop the parking garage) with those large and lovely now mature trees that I learned were artfully placed atop the massive weight-bearing steel columns that supported the multi-storied garage roof. It was a part of the Kaiser building that I had known nothing about, and it was a wonderland of flowers and shrubs and a variety of trees beautifully landscaped for all to enjoy. Made me wonder just how much of the world that is immediately around me have I not yet discovered?

...and that brings us to Aunt Vivian. That brings us to yesterday's unanticipated conversation with Kaiser historian, Steve Gilford, who happened to stop by my cubicle on one of his all-too-rare visits to our reception center -- where we enjoyed (as always) another of the marvelously rich rambling conversations about cabbages and kings, and this; about Vivian Allen Jernigan, Kaiser legend. We began this time with my report on this weekend's discovery of new Mendocino friends and of their connections to his field of study and interest.

Stirred by the stories, Steve returned to his home in Petaluma to scavenge through his notes and came up with precious fragments of an interview with a prominent Kaiser physician that -- even in the sparseness of the entry -- confirm Vivian as I knew her throughout our lives. But that's for tomorrow ...

I need to refresh these wisps of memory stirred by the fine talk and meeting with the Kaiser builder of that corporate headquarters -- and I need an evening of rummaging through old albums for photos and that collection of pins that she was awarded over the years that I'm sure were the happiest in her long life of service to the Kaiser hospital friends and family ... .

More tomorrow.

Photo: This is a photo of Aunt Vivian and her friends -- dated 1926. She is second from the far right sitting on the running board. The writing on the picture is typical of every snapshot I have that came from her albums. I used to find the scrawlings annoying, but now I feel her presence when I see her notes.