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The Ballad of Leslie Bianaford

a character who gets her own page before the book is even written.

Leslie Bianaford came from Paramount, California, a sort of suburb of Los Angeles which used to be a suburb “Rancho” of the King Carlos III back in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. The Mexicans lost it in 1848 and one-hundred years later, Paramount, named after the main north-south running street that cuts through it, was created. The catalyst for the creation was born of an order from the then Postmaster General to consolidate two post offices in the region. Paramount became an incorporated city in 1957, when Leslie Bianaford’s parents, for whom Leslie was still only a gleam in the very young Mrs. Bianaford’s eyes, along with some neighbors and local business owners, initiated a “Save Paramount for Paramount” campaign and successfully secured their identities.

Mr. Bianaford worked at a local dairy, as did many of his family, friends, and neighbors. The Bianafords enjoyed their rural lifestyle with its clean air and wide open spans of land. The hard work and long warm Southern California nights made them active and strong and left them with plenty of energy. Soon the Bianafords were multiplying. Leslie was their third daughter out of five total. Three girls and two boys. And as his family grew, so did Mr. Bianaford’s responsibilities at work. With the extra income, he and his wife decided to delay the gratification of a large home or adding on to their humble little abode and instead purchased much of the land that was available, cows included, within the new city’s boundaries.

As the family grew, so did the cost of land in Paramount. Soon it no longer made sense for a dairy farm owner to toil day in and day out when he and his family could cash out to developers. The Bianaford’s, once again delaying gratification, stayed in their little home, which the family had learned to live comfortably in, and used their cash to add apartments to all the land they now owned. They also built some warehouses and started a trucking company. They began storing and shipping the dairy products of the remaining farmers and occasionally purchasing processing equipment, adding the processing services to their trucking services. They also vertically integrated by acquiring some farms.

The need to delay the gratification of a large home was no longer necessary for Mr. and Mrs. Bianaford. And although all five of their dairy fed children were off to private colleges, the two sat down with an architect and designed the perfect home for themselves. They chose not to build in Paramount, however, moving west and a little south to a place called Palos Verdes Estates, where they raised a low strung, mid century styled, open beam home about eight times larger than their little house down by the dairy farms.

And it had an indoor-outdoor pool. Mr. Bianaford wanted that because he liked to swim in the morning and again in the evening, something he did twice a day to make up for all the years he delayed that gratification. The mornings in Palos Verdes Estates can be cold, though, as the city is nestled on the edge of cliffs over the Pacific and is prone to lingering marine layer, or fog, until late morning. Thus Mr. Bianaford could enjoy his pool and warm atmosphere in the morning, and then he could bask in the sun or clear night later in that same day.

Mrs. Bianaford enjoyed playing her cello in the vast living room, which overlooked the Pacific Ocean and the island of Catalina in the distance. She had taught all her children to play cello, an instrument with plenty of resonance, and very loud when played alone or when paired with five more cellos. Perhaps the unbearable noise within the walls of the Bianaford’s humble Paramount home were the extra motivation Mr. Bianaford needed to work late most nights and accumulate the promotions, raises, and income that propelled his family into the status now enjoyed. He certainly could not come home after the five-o-clock bell and watch a television he could hear.

Leslie Bianaford sat on the patio near the sculpture, “I AM,” and played her cello. She played beautifully and was applauded many times by the other guests. Sometimes she set the mood and sometimes she swayed with the mood. It was hard to tell which mood came first, the one she inspired or the one living among the rest of us.

Leslie had not followed her mother’s footsteps and given birth to a family. Now in her fiftieth year, Leslie had never even bothered to nurture a relationship long enough to make a marriage commitment. She had found contentment in her cello and had devoted her days and nights to it, often visiting her mother and playing duets with her as her father swam. Mr. Bianaford had lost most of his hearing, having worked on heavy, loud machinery for the majority of his life. He felt most at ease under water, enjoying the tranquility of silence meant to be. While he basked in his silence, Mrs. Bianaford basked in the deep tones of her three-hundred year old antique cello, a gift from her husband, which included a very, very expensive bow. All in all the cello and bow had cost more than their ten-thousand square foot home overlooking the ocean. “You are so worth it,” he had said to her after handing her a pearl white carbon fiber cello case with her name engraved by the handle. He could see the joy in her eyes as she played it for the first time, and he could hear a little bit of it, as long as he sat very close.

Leslie had developed her own tweak to the traditional style one used when playing the cello. Her father, although barely able to hear her music, enjoyed watching her play. Leslie had given to laughing aloud while playing. At first she had animated her playing with facial expressions and wide smiles on her very, very wide face - a product of the many gallons of milk she consumed as a little girl. Leslie was no longer little, and her animations were no longer silent. She laughed loud, but t least she laughed in synch. Unfortunately, her laughing ways were not conducive to an orchestra setting, nor to accompaniment in quartets or bands. She was consigned to playing alone or with her mother.

Leslie had plenty of money. Mr. and Mrs. Bianaford had bequeathed each of their five children with an apartment building. These were not just small three or four unit apartment buildings, these were urban sprawl three-hundred or more unit apartment buildings. The net income from her building kept Leslie very comfortable. She had plenty of money for her vintage cello, which cost her the price of a small house in Paramount, and plenty of money for a bow for her cello, which cost her as much as a new Corvette, and plenty of money for her new Corvette, too. With the money left over each month she traveled and occasionally purchased small apartment buildings. She would take pictures of each new acquisition and make two copies, one for her and one for her dad. Her brothers and sisters did that, too. Mr. Bianaford’s bookcase was full of these photo albums. He preferred tangible photos over the digital files most commonly passed around. He liked to jot notes down on the photos, like the dates purchased, which escrow company closed the deal, the purchase price and the actual cap rate. He always taught his two boys and three girls, “its not all about location, location, location. Don’t underestimate the power of compounding!” And then he would chant, “compound, compound, compound!”

And that was what Leslie did. ©2014 Chris Plante

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