A Castle, a Tent, a Hillside Retreat and a Stable. Home, Sweet Home.

Slides from channel 5 newscast on my friend Kamal Amin last night. http://www.kpho.com/slideshow?widgetid=52277

I’ve been helping Kamal Amin, Internationally recognized Architect, Structural Engineer and Author  make the transition of moving from his famous residence into a converted stable a few blocks from me. We’ve been close friends for half my life. He has contributed much. He contributes still. It was his attitude of relative indifference to material things that helped me make a similar transition in recent years.

Raised in a home in Cairo, Egypt that was of such immense proportions that there were bicycles on each floor to manage getting from one end to the other,  I met Kamal as he was  ending more than a decade of living in a tent in the Arizona desert. That was 1977. A few years later he built the home which he is now leaving for someone new to enjoy.

Kamal began a new career a few years ago as a writer with three books to his credit. The first was REFLECTIONS FROM THE SHINING BROW, My Years with Frank Lloyd Wright and Olgivanna Lazovich. For a year or so before this first book was published, Kamal and I took weekly desert walks among the cactus littered sands north of his home and we talked. Though unknown to each of us we were bouncing ideas off each other which would soon turn up in our writings. A year or so after the release of this popular page-turner  Kamal Amin compiled a collection of essays entitle EXCURSIONS. More recently he gave us Women of the Nile. dedicated “To the Goddess Who Resides in Woman’s Soul and Infuses Her With the Energy Which Saves Us All”.

I hope this last book becomes a movie in Kamal’s lifetime. I’ve read it four times, one time aloud. Yes, I was reading to myself, aloud. That’s another story. be patient, please.

Advertisements

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT

THE LAST OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS

Kamal Amin, Architect, Structural Engineer

It was at the little cabaret theater at Taliesin West.  The fellowship was gathering for the weekly social event, when Mr. and Mrs. Wright  had dinner, and saw a movie with the The first time I saw Mr. Wright, was on a Saturday evening in November of 1951.  apprentices. Everyone was dressed up for the occasion, and we stood waiting for the Wrights to walk into the theater.

I had been an apprentice for slightly over a day, largely preoccupied with becoming acquainted with my new environment.  I had learned English in high school as a second language, but I never had a reason or a chance to use it until I came to America.

I was about to see for the first time the man who had inhabited my mind and soul for the previous three years, while I lived in Cairo.  With the many layers of anticipations and expectation I had projected on him, he had become something of an abstraction that I clung to in order to retain my sense of myself.

As I laid my eyes on him when he walked into the theater, I was looking at a very handsome, imposing figure, with an interesting face, framed in his famous mane of white hair. He looked at me with kind eyes and a warm smile, and asked me if I was comfortable in my new surroundings.

The following eight years constituted my period of apprenticeship and association with the greatest architect of all time.  Like my fellow apprentices, I learned my craft by living and working in the company of genius. My day started, progressed and ended in a pervasive atmosphere of creativity and strong beliefs.  I learned from him, simply by being close to him, walking the same earth and breathing the same air.  When I heard him speak, it was like listening to the voice of the ages. He possessed a sense of eternal wisdom, which included the present moment in the progression of history. He was a cosmos unto himself, much like a natural force, which received its instructions from an intangible universe.

The most precious moments for me, were the times he came to my desk, gently moved me over, shared my seat with me, and worked on my drawing.

Magic sprang out of his hands, as he moved them swiftly and decisively, enhancing the complexion of the design.  The statements, instructions and comments he made to me then, remain engraved in my sensibilities.

One late morning on another Saturday, eight years after the Saturday I first met Mr. Wright, he was standing at my desk discussing with me and instructing me as I was working on a spectacular residence he had designed to be built on three adjacent peaks on Mummy Mountain, in Paradise Valley, for Mrs. Daniel Donahoe of Texas.  He had already signed off on the design, but in vintage Mr. Wright, the building is finished only after it had been built.  It was about noon, after an hour or so of work. Then  Mrs. Wright breezed in the drafting room and said,“Frank, it is time for lunch.” And asked him to accompany her.

Later on that evening, being a Saturday, we, all dressed up, waited outside the theater for Mr. and Mrs. Wright to arrive for the evening event.

The wait was longer than usual. Then someone came to tell us that Mr. Wright was taken to the hospital to be operated on, having had severe abdominal pains during the afternoon.

The news was particularly shocking for me, since I was just working with him a few hours earlier. He was ninety two years old, but he was very healthy.  According to his doctor, he had the vital signs of a forty five year old.  I remember times when I needed to run to catch up with him. I expected him to return in a few days.  But a few days later, my good friend Davy Davison, walked to my tent at five o’clock in the morning, I had just awakened, and  said,

“Mr. Wright is gone.”

The news was so devastating to me that it actually threw me off center.

Observing my devastation, Mrs. Wright asked me to tend his grave, mow the lawn, plant the flowers, and generally care for the environment around him.

She came to visit her husband’s grave almost every day. We knelt by the stone circle around it and shared some soulful moments, as we snipped off dead blossoms in order to preserve energy for new growth.

It was during that period that I realized that I was tending the grave of one of the founding fathers of this country.  I was making an in depth study of the history of the United States, and discovering that it is the most interesting and fascinating of all time. The more I read of it, the more I could see that Mr. Wright’s cultural contribution was an organic growth of what this country was all about.

He was born eighty years after the constitutional convention in Philadelphia.

During those eighty years, there were the Federalist Papers, eighty five essays published by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, in order to promote the ratification of the constitution.  Then there was the Marshal Court, which rendered the decisions that started the process of defining the intent of the constitution, as a basis for establishing the different institutions of the country. Then there was the challenge of the war of 1812, which Andrew Jackson brought to a spectacular American victory against the finest British troops in the battle of New Orleans, forcing Britain to recognize the United States claim to Louisiana and west Florida. Then there was the crisis of nullification of tariffs, spear(-) headed by John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, 9and) then the senate Force Act introduced by Daniel Webster. Then there was the Henry Clay compromise which averted conflict for a time. That was followed by the civil war and reconstruction.

By then, America was on her way to becoming a global force.

What was sorely lacking was an aesthetic identity which sprang from the soil of this country expressing the uniqueness of the ideas and forces which converged for the first time in history, to create this society. The prevailing aesthetic was borrowed from classically feudal cultures which the idea of America was intended to resist. In the country’s capital, Washington DC, government functions were and largely remain unceremoniously trapped in Greek or Roman temples.

The monumental efforts made by many during the first eighty years of the life of this country, eventually established a structure upon which, this society was built.  The work was focused on the survival of the country. But the soul of the republic needed to emerge, in order to express in a tangible way, the meaning of the inner freedom of every American citizen, as an independent mind.

Two years after the civil war, Frank Lloyd Wright was born, on a farm in Wisconsin.  It was the signal that an American aesthetic was about to be created.  As a hard working young man, then a young architect in Chicago, the spirit of America, from the Declaration of Independence, through the many events which highlighted the dignity of the individual, were natural components of his make up.  Some time in his youth, he decided that he had a part to play in the realization of the dream which is America.

Very quickly he saw himself as the instrument needed for this unique culture to blossom into a visual expression defining its intent as a way of life.

The way to do that was to become an architect, whose contribution was to enhance God’s work, by building structures springing from and belonging to the soil supporting this culture.

For seventy years of practice, against the overwhelming habitual sentiments of the herd instincts, he did accomplish his purpose, and made a contribution which helped to define America. The five hundred buildings he built stand on God’s earth declaring the sovereignty of the individual.  By simply doing his work, he gave permission to architects across the twentieth century to explore every conceivable structure.  There would not have been twentieth century architecture without him

That was the second Declaration of Independence.

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT

THE LAST OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS

Kamal Amin, Architect, Structural Engineer

It was at the little cabaret theater at Taliesin West.  The fellowship was gathering for the weekly social event, when Mr. and Mrs. Wright  had dinner, and saw a movie with the The first time I saw Mr. Wright, was on a Saturday evening in November of 1951.  apprentices. Everyone was dressed up for the occasion, and we stood waiting for the Wrights to walk into the theater.

I had been an apprentice for slightly over a day, largely preoccupied with becoming acquainted with my new environment.  I had learned English in high school as a second language, but I never had a reason or a chance to use it until I came to America.

I was about to see for the first time the man who had inhabited my mind and soul for the previous three years, while I lived in Cairo.  With the many layers of anticipations and expectation I had projected on him, he had become something of an abstraction that I clung to in order to retain my sense of myself.

As I laid my eyes on him when he walked into the theater, I was looking at a very handsome, imposing figure, with an interesting face, framed in his famous mane of white hair. He looked at me with kind eyes and a warm smile, and asked me if I was comfortable in my new surroundings.

The following eight years constituted my period of apprenticeship and association with the greatest architect of all time.  Like my fellow apprentices, I learned my craft by living and working in the company of genius. My day started, progressed and ended in a pervasive atmosphere of creativity and strong beliefs.  I learned from him, simply by being close to him, walking the same earth and breathing the same air.  When I heard him speak, it was like listening to the voice of the ages. He possessed a sense of eternal wisdom, which included the present moment in the progression of history. He was a cosmos unto himself, much like a natural force, which received its instructions from an intangible universe.

The most precious moments for me, were the times he came to my desk, gently moved me over, shared my seat with me, and worked on my drawing.

Magic sprang out of his hands, as he moved them swiftly and decisively, enhancing the complexion of the design.  The statements, instructions and comments he made to me then, remain engraved in my sensibilities.

One late morning on another Saturday, eight years after the Saturday I first met Mr. Wright, he was standing at my desk discussing with me and instructing me as I was working on a spectacular residence he had designed to be built on three adjacent peaks on Mummy Mountain, in Paradise Valley, for Mrs. Daniel Donahoe of Texas.  He had already signed off on the design, but in vintage Mr. Wright, the building is finished only after it had been built.  It was about noon, after an hour or so of work. Then  Mrs. Wright breezed in the drafting room and said,“Frank, it is time for lunch.” And asked him to accompany her.

Later on that evening, being a Saturday, we, all dressed up, waited outside the theater for Mr. and Mrs. Wright to arrive for the evening event.

The wait was longer than usual. Then someone came to tell us that Mr. Wright was taken to the hospital to be operated on, having had severe abdominal pains during the afternoon.

The news was particularly shocking for me, since I was just working with him a few hours earlier. He was ninety two years old, but he was very healthy.  According to his doctor, he had the vital signs of a forty five year old.  I remember times when I needed to run to catch up with him. I expected him to return in a few days.  But a few days later, my good friend Davy Davison, walked to my tent at five o’clock in the morning, I had just awakened, and  said,

“Mr. Wright is gone.”

The news was so devastating to me that it actually threw me off center.

Observing my devastation, Mrs. Wright asked me to tend his grave, mow the lawn, plant the flowers, and generally care for the environment around him.

She came to visit her husband’s grave almost every day. We knelt by the stone circle around it and shared some soulful moments, as we snipped off dead blossoms in order to preserve energy for new growth.

It was during that period that I realized that I was tending the grave of one of the founding fathers of this country.  I was making an in depth study of the history of the United States, and discovering that it is the most interesting and fascinating of all time. The more I read of it, the more I could see that Mr. Wright’s cultural contribution was an organic growth of what this country was all about.

He was born eighty years after the constitutional convention in Philadelphia.

During those eighty years, there were the Federalist Papers, eighty five essays published by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay, in order to promote the ratification of the constitution.  Then there was the Marshal Court, which rendered the decisions that started the process of defining the intent of the constitution, as a basis for establishing the different institutions of the country. Then there was the challenge of the war of 1812, which Andrew Jackson brought to a spectacular American victory against the finest British troops in the battle of New Orleans, forcing Britain to recognize the United States claim to Louisiana and west Florida. Then there was the crisis of nullification of tariffs, spear(-) headed by John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, 9and) then the senate Force Act introduced by Daniel Webster. Then there was the Henry Clay compromise which averted conflict for a time. That was followed by the civil war and reconstruction.

By then, America was on her way to becoming a global force.

What was sorely lacking was an aesthetic identity which sprang from the soil of this country expressing the uniqueness of the ideas and forces which converged for the first time in history, to create this society. The prevailing aesthetic was borrowed from classically feudal cultures which the idea of America was intended to resist. In the country’s capital, Washington DC, government functions were and largely remain unceremoniously trapped in Greek or Roman temples.

The monumental efforts made by many during the first eighty years of the life of this country, eventually established a structure upon which, this society was built.  The work was focused on the survival of the country. But the soul of the republic needed to emerge, in order to express in a tangible way, the meaning of the inner freedom of every American citizen, as an independent mind.

Two years after the civil war, Frank Lloyd Wright was born, on a farm in Wisconsin.  It was the signal that an American aesthetic was about to be created.  As a hard working young man, then a young architect in Chicago, the spirit of America, from the Declaration of Independence, through the many events which highlighted the dignity of the individual, were natural components of his make up.  Some time in his youth, he decided that he had a part to play in the realization of the dream which is America.

Very quickly he saw himself as the instrument needed for this unique culture to blossom into a visual expression defining its intent as a way of life.

The way to do that was to become an architect, whose contribution was to enhance God’s work, by building structures springing from and belonging to the soil supporting this culture.

For seventy years of practice, against the overwhelming habitual sentiments of the herd instincts, he did accomplish his purpose, and made a contribution which helped to define America. The five hundred buildings he built stand on God’s earth declaring the sovereignty of the individual.  By simply doing his work, he gave permission to architects across the twentieth century to explore every conceivable structure.  There would not have been twentieth century architecture without him

That was the second Declaration of Independence.

 

 

Another Chapter in the Life of Kamal Amin

I have owned more than a dozen profitable businesses in the development of my career. I have even owned several that were not profitable. All required planning; at least I assumed that to be the case. And in every instance I worked very long hours during the birthing of a business; always, the first pieces of furniture in that office or in that retail store would be a screen (unless there was more than one room) and a cot. There I would sleep a few hours at night and use the other eighteen hours to carve out a workspace, type and mail press releases, arrange for advertising and to call upon every other business in the immediate community, personally inviting the management and their employees for the pre-planned grand opening. I’d do these things until prevented from doing so by the arrival of my first customer, client or curiosity seeker.

In 1977 I would learn of another approach to building a business relationship with my public.

I had met Kamal Amin early in this particular year and we rapidly became friends. We knew many of the same people, traveled in the same circles; he even leased an apartment near mine and we often had morning coffee together or afternoon tea. Kamal told me one day that he was ready to leave Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship and was prepared to greet the world as an self employed Architect, apparently oblivious of empty pockets, and prepared to do great things.

Kamal had bought an inexpensive automobile from the back lot of a new car dealership owned by a mutual friend. This particular back lot was where the unsalable trade-ins sat until they were sold to smaller dealers like Honest John’s Miracle Car Lot.(“ If it run’s it’s a miracle”)   Honest John had apparently left this car to be the first of several miracles that would engage my new  friend in the fruits of future labors.

What funds were left after leasing the apartment and buying this recently abandoned relic from the streets of Scottsdale, were used to rent a corner in a friend’s office furnished only with a chair, a desk and a phone. Every day Kamal Amin dressed himself in a conservative Washington DC suit.  Every day Kamal Amin sat at his desk. Kamal Amin sat at this desk for two weeks, waiting.  And waiting. And waiting some more.

Until today I had never known of anyone taking such an approach to business success. And on this very day I borrowed from The Scottsdale Civic Center Library, a book written by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson called REWORK which details a rationale describing this very same approach to earning one’s daily bread, an approach which has for more than three decades been the secret of success to one of this world’s greatest designers of personal and corporate spaces, a man whose work is known in his profession worldwide, Kamal Amin, the mild-mannered Architect from Fountain Hills, from Scottsdale and from Cairo a man who on paper at least, can move mountains.

The evidence of the success of Kamal Amin’s attitude toward the manifestation of more than two decades of training bore fruit one morning as the phone rang with an invitation to bid on a job in the Texas Hill Country, The next day Kamal flew to Texas to meet with a member of the Hunt family. Mr. Amin has been busy developing his career ever since. Never to my knowledge has he planned a thing. Kamal Amin’s life appears to have been one glorious surprise after another. And though I have not learned as much from Kamal Amin as did he from Mr. Wright, I feel as though I have learned much more.

Today, two old men begin new careers. Each of us, Kamal Amin and Lee Broom spend most of our time writing. Kamal has three books published. I have two completes and five in progress, none of them published. Oddly enough my first business was a publishing company.

Kamal Amin’s life challenges are described in Reflections from the Shining Brow. His essays and musings are sprinkled throughout the pages of his second book entitled Excursions. Tomorrow I will publish a letter I wrote to Kamal expressing my reaction to his latest book, a work which uses the lives of three fictitious Egyptian women whose stories chronicle the history of their Country. I was captivated by these three WOMEN OF THE NILE. I learned more about Egyptian society in four hours than I have in a lifetime.

Svetlana. REFLECTIONS FROM THE SHINING BROW. Kamal Amin

Yesterday, November 28, 2011 I posted a reminiscence of  Svetlana (Lana Peters) Alliluyeva Stalin.

I posted late and followed by emailing a copy to a mutual friend Kamal Amin. Kamal and I have been close friends for thirty-five years. Kamal devoted a chapter of his book Reflections From the Shining Brow, to our mutual friend, Svetlana. Following are the emails from me to Kamal and his reply. I will include passages from Reflections.

11/28/2011 

“Hi Kamal,

 This evening  I wrote of my memories of Svetlana from a three-week period in which we became friends. I never saw her after that. I wanted to consult with you but it was too late to be calling and I did want this post to bear today’s date. If you would like to post a comment I invite you to do so. If I may post a quote from Reflections, I could do that tomorrow. Please inform.

 I pray for peace in your homeland.  

 Lee.

11/29/2011

 

Hi Lee

I read your touching piece. She was one of a kind.

If you’d like to. you can post a quotation from my book.

Best

Kamal

 

Excerpts from:

REFLECTIONS FROM THE SHINING BROW  

MY YEARS WITH FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT AND  OLGIVANNA LAZOVICH

Chapter 21

SVETLANA STALIN

      He is gone, but his shadow still stands over all of us. It still dictates to us and we, very often, obey. – Svetlana Stalin, on her father.

…..My wife and I were expecting Olgivanna. She had called earlier announcing that she would arrive with a guest. She stepped out of her Cadillac with an attractive woman of about forty or forty-two years of age. The guest was rather square-faced, with blue eyes and a sweet smile. She looked down slightly, in a demure posture, communicating an apparent shyness. They reached the breeze-way and Olgivanna introduced her guest. She was Svetlana Alliluyeva, daughter of Stalin, the dead Russian dictator……

…..Some of Svetlana’s writing reveals the darkness that had engulfed her life and illustrates her hunger for a ray of light. In Only One Year she writes:

     In the family in which I was born and bred, nothing was normal. Everything was oppressive, and my mother’s suicide was a most eloquent testimony to the hopelessness of the situation —- Kremlin walls all around me, secret police in the house, in the kitchen, at school. And over it all a wasted, obdurate man, fenced in from his former colleagues, his old friends, from all those who had been close to him, in fact from the entire world, who, with his accomplices, had turned the country into a prison in which everyone with a breath of spirit and mind was being extinguished; a man who aroused fear and hatred in millions of men. This was my father.

 

This was the burden that dominated her life in her young years and continued to shadow her existence as she grew up. If anything, life became harder for her after her Father’s death in 1953. At least during his life she was protected by her blood relationship with him. Another aspect of her thinking is also expressed in Only One Year,

She writes:

     At the University, I went through a course in history and social science. We seriously studied Marxism, analyzed Marx, Engels, Lenin, and, of course, Stalin. The conclusion I carried away from those studies was that the theoretical Marxism and Communism that we studied had nothing whatever to do with actual conditions in the USSR. Economically, our socialism was more of a state capitalism. Its social aspect was some strange hybrid bureaucratic-like system in which the secret police resembled the German Gestapo and our backward rural economy made one think of a nineteenth-century village. Marx had never dreamed of anything of the sort….Soviet Russia broke with everything that had been revolutionary in her history and got on the well-trodden path of all-powerful imperialism, having replaced the liberal freedoms of the beginning of the twentieth century with the horrors of Ivan the Terrible.

 

…..During her initial days at Taliesin, Svetlana and I spent some quality time together. We went walking or swimming in a pool I had built a few years earlier. She was soft-spoken, attractive and a pleasure to be with. But there was a peculiar vacant spot in her make-up. Occasionally she separated herself from her environment and disappeared into some inaccessible space, signaling an abrupt end to the encounter. Over the years this became a defining feature,  which probably originated in her conflicted childhood and youth. Eventually, it was hard to have a meaningful communication with her, as there was this built-in dead-end every time a contact started…..

…..She lived through the shattering experience of her mother’s suicide. She coexisted with pervasive uncertainty, inconsistency, and insecurity about what her future held.