All images © Tim Keller unless otherwise noted
March 29, 2017 Grandma Keller's Biscuits
I spent so much time with Grandma Keller, my dad's mom, that after I moved away from California I started making her biscuit recipe several times each year and always on her birthday. I always phoned Grandma when I was making her biscuits. Eleanor Ethylbert Kathrine Berman Keller was born in Missouri on this day in 1911. Since her death at age 92, I've continued making her biscuits on her birthday every year. It's snowing outside today, with a cold hard wind, so it's a perfect biscuit day. I've served them with eggs, chicken sausage, and a smoothie.
Born in Ferguson, Missouri, now a suburb of St. Louis, Grandma migrated with her family to southern California as a young girl and was working at the pottery barn on Malibu Pier when a young man from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, met and took a fancy to her. He was 22, she was 14. George and Eleanor Keller married and had two kids, my dad Jack Keller and his sister Georgia Keller Garey. Married for more than 50 years, my grandparents were country people, prefering to live on the land where they could raise a garden and chickens and animals. I lived with them during the summers when I was 16 and 17 while working 50-hour weeks of hard labor on the ranch where Grandpa was purchasing agent--Rancho Mission Viejo was a big outfit! They turned me into a country boy, one who makes his own biscuits from scratch. Happy birthday, Grandma.
March 16, 2017 Terry
A big Happy Birthday! today to my brother, Terry Keller. We've spent more time together these twelve weeks since our father's death than we have in 50 years, since I moved out of the same house to go off to college when I was 17. Our dad took the left photo of Terry developing his guitar chops long long ago. Sixty years later he no longer plays with his tongue out but he still plays, all the time, and I was proud to get this wonderful portrait of him. Happy birthday, Terry.
March 3, 2017 Santa Monica
Everyone else has left and my brother has returned to work, leaving me and Christina some fun time to explore along the beach before our return drive of this road trip from home in northeastern New Mexico to "home" in Pacific Palisades and back for my parents' memorial ceremonies and celebrations. After an early dinner at M Street Kitchen, we wandered along the beach walk south of Santa Monica Pier, including Bay Street where I often surfed when I was growing up here. That's where I took this photo, using my iPhone camera, of Ocean House, which I assume is condominiums. As in the Palisades, many of the buildings are new since my day here. The palm trees are the same.
The second photo was taken a few minutes earlier, the sun a little higher, as we walked just south of the pier and watched a collective of tightrope walkers practicing their skills. Tonight's dinner was good but our favorite restaurants while exploring the area during recent weeks have been Santa Monica Seafood Company, El Cholo, and Huckleberry--all within a block of each other on Wilshire around 10th, and all enjoyed mulitiple times--and Cora's Coffee Shoppe just a couple blocks from here at the beach near Bay Street. We love enjoying great food and great restaurants. Raton is not a good restaurant town. Luckily I'm a great cook, and luckily too we have Santa Fe to enjoy as our city, 180 miles away and home to countless great restaurants. Being able to spend so much time here on LA's westside, though, has been sumptuous. Following great meals with long walks along the beach or bluffs has been pretty good, too.
March 1, 2017 The Bluffs
I've spent half of the past ten weeks here in Pacific Palisades, in three separate trips, and like many in the neighborhood where I grew up, I walk to the bluffs almost every day, typically in late afternoon, and during these weeks I've been to the bluffs again every night in after-dinner walks.
I took the top photo after Christmas when my brother Terry and I walked the bluffs with our best friend Peter Burg, something the three of us have done for more than half a century. Two or three hundred feet below, between us and the Pacific Ocean, is the famed Pacific Coast Highway, a.k.a. "PCH." You can just about see PCH is this new photo, left, that Christina took of me and Terry with our "kids," Terry's son Killian Keller and my daughter Darcy Day Keller, taken late Sunday afternoon after we'd all been to sea to scatter together the ashes of my mother and father.
I took this photo of Darcy and her filmmaker husband Jarrett Lambo. They live in Brooklyn but may eventually move to LA, which I'd enjoy. With the loss of our parents, and my brother's planned departure from California, having Darcy and Jarrett there will give us endless reasons and opportunities to continue to visit LA's westside and the Pacific Palisades bluffs, continuing a lifelong tradition.
February 27, 2017 The Gift
In her best luau mode, my mom, Joan Day Keller, rocks her Malibu beach girl capris, posing with an indulgence my dad, Jack Keller, couldn't resist--his Jaguar XK120. The time is late 1950s, the place 666 Palmera Avenue, our first house in Pacific Palisades after moving from 1808 34th Street in January 1956 as the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) was being built just a block away.
By 1963 my dad had traded the Jag for a VW bug, probably part of moving us across the canyon that year to 530 Muskingum Avenue, which has remained the family home to this day. (Dad later traded the VW for a Porsche 914.) With the loss of both our parents during the last two years, my brother Terry and I are reflecting on the rich gifts they gave us, then and now. From decidedly working-class backgrounds, my parents aspired to move close to the beach, raising their sights, working hard, making it work. Mom became my Cub Scout den mother, Dad my Boy Scout scoutmaster and baseball coach, and life was good.
Yesterday, on what would have been my dad's 89th birthday (he missed it by just a couple months), 20 of us, extended family and dearest friends, gathered in the early morning at Marina del Rey to board the 65' Matt Walsh and take the cremated remains of our parents north of Santa Monica Pier where we commingled their ashes in the sea, magically accompanied by a seal, pelicans, seagulls, dolphins, and multi-colored roses. Others joined us at the house later for a reception where we all shared the gifts we'd received in our lives from Jack and Joan Day Keller. It was, and is, a time of thanksgiving.
February 20, 2017 Beached
We always like to get our feet into the sand and the water, walking along the beach whenever we visit my family hometown of Pacific Palisades. Sunset is prime time, partly for the photography, but during my recent recurring trips I've been multiple times at various times of day. For this wave photo taken from the jetty at Temescal Canyon, I ventured with Christina as far out the jetty as I reasonably could while Terry and Peter ambled up the beach to the Bel Air Beach Club boundary and back. This beach is directly below the bluffs high over the ocean and three blocks from our family home. We often--we usually--walk to the bluffs in the evenings, where we can see the entire sweep of the Santa Monica Bay day or night.
One afternoon when I was the only one at the house, I took a seven-mile beach loop instead of my usual eight-mile hike in the nearby mountains. From the bluffs visable at the top left here, I walked down to the water and then north to Sunset Boulevard, where I took the right photo. I used to surf here often, and for two months at age 21 I lived in the parking lot here, in my VW camper. I turned around and walked back south as far as your eye can see, to Santa Monica Canyon at the upper right of the photo, then up Chautauqua Boulevard and Corona del Mar to the Palisades, where I stopped to enjoy of the self-serve frozen-yogurt bar at Toppings, surrounded on the Via de la Paz sidewalk by the cacaphony of children just released from school. It was a particularly good afternoon.
February 11, 2017 Another Raton Heritage Business Closes
Last month I lamented the closing of Raton's All Seasons Restaurant, even as I celebrated the well-earned retirement of the wonderful and popular owners, Jeanette and Kelly Fissel (January 16, below). Yesterday, another anchor business closed when Dorothy and Alan Best bowed to the economic winds and closed their Two-Way Electronics store, known for decades downtown as Radio Shack.
Dorothy's and Alan's story is similar to Jeanette's and Kelly's. The Bests met in Tucumcari 47 years ago, married two years later, and started with Radio Shack five years later. They ran their Raton store continuously since 1979. I profiled the Bests and their business for The Chronicle-News in 2010. Five years later the Radio Shack chain announced its closing and I reported, for both The Chronicle-News and Raton Comet, "Relax: We're Not Going Anywhere," in which the Bests committed to keeping their electronics business open downtown. But business declined and the Bests gradually went from having four full-time employees to Alan working the store alone. Alan and Dorothy are upbeat about their own future, as they should be, but Raton has suffered yet another blow.
January 28, 2017 Hiking Temescal Ridge
Back in California for the second of three extended stays following last month's death of my father here, I spend the mornings working on settling family affairs--with my brother Terry when he's not in downtown LA teaching middle-school PE--but in the afternoons I'm able to follow my practice of a daily hike. There are more than 60 miles of hiking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains behind Pacific Palisades, where I grew up and my family has remained. As much as I love the beauty and solitude of hiking in my corner of New Mexico's Hi Lo Country, I equally love the change of trails and scenery whenever I visit "home" and hike the high trails overlooking Santa Monica Bay.
For years I've hiked up from Rustic Canyon, near the beach, to Will Rogers State Park and then upward to the Backbone Trail. With my dad no longer in the canyon, I tried a new access point, the Temescal Ridge Trail above Palisades Highlands. I'm hooked! So far I've been doing an eight-mile out-and-back route with stunning ocean views. Because of deep winter snow on the mountain trails at home in New Mexico, I don't get much climbing in winter (I hike instead across ranches)--except when I visit my other home in Pacific Palisades, where it's all mountains, mountains and ocean as far as the eye can see.
January 16, 2017 All Seasons Runs Out of Seasons
Kelly Fissel came home from college to work in his dad's restaurant. He was among the many who thought it unwise to start a restaurant way out there on the interstate, but All Seasons Restaurant was a success, leading to today's "Restaurant Row" (a.k.a. "Motel Alley") that catches all the passing travelers, preventing most of them from ever seeing Raton's historic downtown district--and throwing that district into blight.
Forty years ago at All Seasons, Kelly fell for a young waitress. Kelly and Jeanette Fissel married and, in 1992, bought the business. They've run it seven days a week, one of them always there, breakfast and lunch for forty years. Their children grew up working in the restaurant, and several employees stayed more than 30 years, loyal to their great employers. Last year the Fissells put a For Sale sign atop the building. Yesterday, All Seasons Restaurant closed.
Along with countless weekend breakfast buffets, I enjoyed interviewing and photographing Kelly and Jeanette and the restaurant for my 2012 New Mexico Magazine feature, "The Heart of Raton." Small towns are declining throughout America, though proximity to interstate highways can prop up local economies. At Raton, it's propped up Restaurant Row, but only the national fast-food chains are left there now. That's not good for Raton.
Kelly and Jeanette Fissel put in the time and deserve a long happy retirement. I'll miss them and All Seasons Restaurant, even as I worry about Raton's future.
January 11, 2017 Racing the Storm
After almost three weeks in California working with my brother to settle affairs after the passing of our father December 20, I drove Dad's 2002 Honda Odyssey van home 1100 miles to Raton. (I posted an homage to my father yesterday in my photography blog, and wrote his obituary for this week's local paper.) As I crossed the Mojave Desert and the Colorado River into Arizona, I watched the forecast as chances of a big snowstorm increased for the next evening in Raton. I pushed on past Flagstaff to Winslow, then left there before dawn the next morning, driving through snow flurries at Gallup. North of Watrous, I ran into the storm. By the time I reached home in late afternoon, there was one inch of snow on the ground. It was good to be home, not stuck somewhere else midway. The snow fell all night as we slept with the bedroom fireplace crackling and warm. By morning, the sun came out and Christina and I spent hours clearing 14 inches of snow from our driveway, porches, and walking paths. Three days earlier I had been hiking in a t-shirt and shorts in the Santa Monica Mountains. Now Christina was taking my picture running the snowblower at home. Life is rich, and good.
February 26, 1928 -
December 20, 2016
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