Tuesday, May 24, 2016

City with a View

I love grand, sweeping panoramas. For a city of only a few square miles, South Pasadena has an amazing number of beautiful views. (I actually wrote about it for Patch a few years ago.) Sure, a postcard view is an easy shot for a photographer when all you have to do is point your camera at a beautiful setting.

But what a payoff!

Former South Pas residents who have moved away often write me asking to post photos of specific views. A reader living in China asked if I had any stormy views from Monterey Hills looking toward the San Gabriels. Will you settle for snow?  Here you go...

For some truly remarkable view shots, check out The Library of Congress Panoramic Photograph Collection, 1851-1991. The images feature cityscapes, landscapes, bridges, waterways, natural disaster overviews and some pretty amazing old group portraits and beauty contests. I often go down the internet rabbit hole of vintage images.  Check out this great old shot of South Pasadena's historic Raymond Hotel. And for those of you who once read my Castle Green post, here's a great vintage image of Pasadena's famous Hotel Green. These photographs give us a long view of world history and offer a fantastic window into our shared past.

A version of this post was originally published in 2012

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Taijitu Revisited

Duality fascinates me. I love the way two seemingly incongruous things can exist together in a kind of light/dark, up/down symbiosis. Just think about how boring life would be if we only had the angel on one shoulder demanding that we mind our manners and eat our vegetables. Without that little devil on the other side encouraging us to speak out and choose the hot fudge (and maybe add a shot of cognac,) we'd never see the world in all its complexity: good and bad, full and empty, safe and dangerous.

South Pasadena is a great study in the yin/yang idea of opposites fitting together within a greater whole. On the one hand, we have all the small town baseball and apple pie goodness of a Norman Rockwell painting, but we're tucked into the exquisite chaos of greater Los Angeles -- and that keeps us from becoming treacly or naive.

Low and high, male and female, backwards and forwards ... interacting opposites that manifest the whole. Somewhere in the grey area, we find balance. Aristotle described it as the Golden Mean, "the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency." After I eat my broccoli, I'll lift my brandy snifter to that idea. How could we have balance without something else on the other side of the scale?

Originally posted in October, 2009

Friday, April 8, 2016

Welcome to South Pasadena

Welcome! You've found my virtual front porch.

For over four years, I posted a photo every day from South Pasadena -- Los Angeles' little town in the big city.  If you look through the archives you will find my daily musings, a few rants, a lot of history, some interesting little details and several thousand views of early 21st century South Pas.  I still live in and love my town, and still post new images monthly. I'm surprised to see so many page hits for a blog I no longer regularly update. Thanks for your interest!

You can click the label links to the bottom right for specific subjects, or just wander around. Everyone knows South Pas is a great place to explore...

Thanks for stopping by!

Best of Glimpses: A Hometown Poet Named Henry G. Lee

In the early morning of December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Within hours they had also attacked the U.S. forces stationed in the Philippine Islands. Five days later, the South Pasadena Review reported that Lieut. Henry G. Lee of South Pasadena was safe in Manila. Henry was a member of the 31st US Infantry Regiment, and had been posted to the Philippines in 1940.

At the time of the surprise attack, The United States was unprepared to defend the Philippines. Henry was captured when the Japanese overran the Bataan peninsula. In February of 1942, he wrote his family this letter from Bataan:

I have seen some horrible things happen, and have had my share of narrow escapes, but I have also seen some very wonderful acts of courage, self-sacrifice, and loyalty. And I have found what I have searched for all my life—a cause and a job in which I can lose myself completely and to which I can give every ounce of my strength and my mind. And I have mentally and spiritually conquered my fear of death.

My prayer each night is that God will send you, who are suffering so much more than I am, His strength and peace. During the first few days of war I also prayed for personal protection from physical harm, but now I see that is something for which I have no right to ask, and I pray now that I may be given strength to bear whatever I must bear, and do whatever I must do so that those men under me will have every reasonable chance.

Life and my family have been very good to me and have given me everything I have ever really wanted, and should anything happen to me here it will not be like closing a book in the middle as it would have been had I been killed in the first days of the war. For in the last two months I have done a lifetime of living, and have been a part of one of the most unselfish cooperative efforts that has ever been made by any group of individuals... If the same selfless spirit were devoted to world betterment in time of peace, what a good world we would have.

Henry survived the Battle of Bataan. He held on through the horrors of the Bataan Death March. During his internment at the Cabanatuan prison camp, he recorded his experiences through a series of poems. He wrote them in a children's school book and later buried the book beneath a hut in the prison camp. On the first page, Henry wrote this preface:

I make no pretense to being anything other than a layman, who, during an intense mental and physical experience, found verse the most effective means of recording his reactions—and incidentally, of ridding himself of some otherwise almost unbearable emotions. The best I can say of the majority of these poems is that they are as true as I could make them; the worst, that they are not written by a talented nor experienced poet.

Henry's quiet modesty was upstaged by the poignant music of his poetry. While he may have defined himself as a soldier, he revealed himself as an artist. In the dark days of war, Henry's verses reflected a true poet's inner light.

Somewhere there lives a woman I suppose
Who once was you. All night I fought my brain,
All night with burning eyes that ached to close
I probed the whirling darkness while the rain
Played on the nipa with a rhythmic stamp,
And as forgotten memories seared my heart
The restless mutter of the prison camp
Mocked at the empty years we’ve been apart.
But now the hills that race the tropic dawn
Across a sky ablaze with pagan joy
Have touched me with their strength. Though you are gone
I guard one treasure nothing can destroy—
Across a spring green, a sunlit campus lawn
A golden girl laughs with her dark-haired boy.

A few months before the camp was liberated, Henry and 1617 other prisoners were sent to Bilibid Prison in Manila to work as slave laborers. After several months of hard labor, illness and near starvation, Henry and the others were placed on an unmarked Japanese ship. Thinking it was a legitimate target and unaware of the POWs on board, the U.S. attacked. Henry survived.

The prisoners were loaded onto another unmarked freighter called the Enoura Maru. Lieut. Henry G. Lee was killed when the U.S. sank this ship in Formosa on January 9, 1945.

In July, 1942, Stephen Vincent Benet included Henry's letter to his parents in a popular radio series called Dear Adolf. The letter was read for broadcast by actor William Holden, a private in the US Army and Henry's former classmate at South Pasadena High School. You can listen to the broadcast here.

Although Henry's body was never brought home, his poetry book was eventually recovered. In 1948, Henry's parents Thomas and Mable G. Lee published his poems and letters in a book titled Nothing But Praise.

If Henry G. Lee's life had not been cut short by war, might he have gone on to become one of America's great literary voices? Perhaps he would have come back to South Pas, claimed his golden girl and, in his own words, worked with "the same selfless spirit devoted to world betterment in time of peace." We'll never know.

I could not know the meaning nor the way,
I was not one with all that time must end,
Until one hopeless, joyless, bitter day
I looked at unmasked death and saw a friend.

--Henry G. Lee, 1915-1945

*  *  *
Originally published at Glimpses of South Pasadena on Memorial Day, 2011

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My New Blog is Launching this Month!

I'm getting back to my blogging roots with a brand, spanking new blog called LA: Other.  Yes, I'm venturing beyond my beloved South Pasadena borders and into the wide, wild rest of the city of angels.  I hope you will join me as I incorporate videos into my usual still photography, commentary and stories.

I've missed all of you, and hope you'll follow me into the bigger Los Angeles hood.  Stay tuned for my first official post later this month.

Monday, July 21, 2014

So Many Things to See in Only 3 Square Miles...

Here are just a few of my glimpses of South Pasadena.  Please see the post below for more information about this blog, and stay tuned for my newest blog LAOther, launching in September, 2014!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


For over four years, I posted a photo a day from South Pasadena -- Los Angeles' little town in the big city.  Here you will find my daily musings, a few rants, and several thousand views of early 21st century South Pas. 

You can click the label links to the bottom right for more organized views and viewpoints.  Or, just dive into the rabbit hole. 

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Time Out

Due to unexpected events, I will not be updating Glimpses of South Pasadena for the foreseeable future.  Thank you for over 4 years of daily exploration, discovery, friendship and fun.

I appreciate the support of the over 900,000 people who have taken the time to visit this blog.  The experience changed my life.  I hope to be back again at some point, if not here then in another online incarnation.  Until then, thank you all.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Freeway Noir: 7

It wasn't the darkness that was so terrifying.  It was everything that she could see in the light.

This wraps up Freeway Noir Week, folks.  Thanks for letting me share a series of shots taken from the passenger seat of a car while driving bumper to bumper home on the 110 freeway.  This coming week?  Color!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Freeway Noir: 6

"I don't want to go in there," She said when she saw the tunnel.

She had a habit of biting her lip when she was scared about something.  She was biting it it now.   It made him want to speed the car just to startle her.  He wanted to drive right up to the edge of the truck ahead and stop just short of collision.  A screech of brakes, a scattering of the change in the cup holder and possibly blood jazzing up that pale pink lipstick.

He didn't like it that he wanted to scare her this much.  As they pulled into the tunnel, she laughed a little.

"Oh," she said.  "This isn't so bad."

He kept his eyes on the lane lines, his foot carefully adjusting to the proper speed limit.  He didn't look to see if she was biting her lip.  It was probably to dark to see, anyway.

We're almost home from Freeway Noir Week -- a series of shots taken from the passenger seat while stuck in traffic on the 110 Freeway.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

Freeway Noir: 5

The hotel gleamed like platinum in spite all those dirty windows. She'd been fooled by flash before.  It was shiny, sure.  But it wasn't clean.

I'm dipping my toes into the dark side with Freeway Noir Week -- a series of monochrome shots taken out of the car window while stuck in traffic on the 110 freeway.  

And no, I wasn't driving the car --- but I was just driving my family crazy as I tried to channel the spirit of Raymond Chandler.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Freeway Noir: 4

Nothing in this place was truly civilized.  Even the palm trees stood like wild sentries threatening to attack all who approached the concrete jungle.

Freeway Noir Week continues.  Share my shots taken while stuck in traffic on the 110.