Ironically, I had just dropped my cell phone when I looked down and noticed this relic from our country's wired past. You can find early to mid 20th Century Bell System manhole covers like this almost everywhere in the United States -- but isn't it beautiful?
The late afternoon always creates a lot of drama across the front of Grace Brethren Church on Fremont Avenue. The lower the sun sets ... the bigger the palm tree shadow grows until it dwarfs those beautiful stained glass windows. I wonder what the sanctuary looks like inside with that dark giant crossing the panes, and then passing. There's a metaphor in there somewhere about spirit, or maybe temptation, or it could just be a classic example of pagan/Christian rivalry. Then again, Thoreau is the one who said, "My profession is to always find God in nature."
But, I digress.
I haven't truly captured the magic of this daily occurrence with my photo -- you can't see how lovely the windows look or how much they glow even during the day -- but you get the idea.
This prime example of San Gabriel Valley topiary always catches my eye. I can't quite figure out what is happening with that front downward sloping hedge. Do you think the curving shapes here were intentional, or did a gardener simply slip with the electric trimmers one day and decide to make it an installation?
South Pasadena's many heritage trees are almost as famous as the Craftsman houses. While Southern California is noted for its palm trees -- and South Pas is home to quite a few of them -- many other gorgeous specimens tangle up our local landscape. Streets are lined with towering camphors, oaks, sycamores, maples and pines. They stretch out into a thick canopy overhead, offering perches for the parrots and shade for the people. They also reach deep into the earth, cracking sidewalks on the surface and breaking old clay pipes underground.
I love the leafy tops, but it's those roots below that always make me grab my camera.
Produce, flowers and prepared food aren't the only goodies you'll find at the weekly South Pas Farmers Market. Last week I found this amazing kid, playing this song with the smooth expertise of a 1920s speakeasy honkytonker.
I grabbed this shot while walking down El Centro yesterday. (See tiny me reflected up there at the bottom of the round mirror?) When I saw the image, I realized it had a few qualities I really like. It's happy, it's silly, it's weird, it's imperfect, it's off-kilter, it's unsettling, it's casual, it's unpretentious and it's carefree --all good things to celebrate today, on my birthday!
If you drive past the corner of Mission and Fremont, you'll notice a huge corner lot that has been fenced in, tarped up and plastered with For Sale signs for as long as anyone can remember. If you park your car, walk over and pull back the plastic to peek through the chain link, you'll see a big dirt hole with weeds and a few forgotten objects. In reality, it looks like construction was halted on a project at some point after bulldozers had started digging for an underground parking structure.
But in a photographer's fantasy, it looks like a still life arranged by Andrew Wyeth.
Many houses in Monterey Hills have mailboxes just like this one. It's as if the entire development got a deal back in the late 60s on these old-fashioned metal homages to the Pony Express-- an odd choice, considering the prevailing mid-century modern architecture of the area.
I just love them. They're charming, kind of corny and completely unexpected.
I'm fascinated by the big empty parking garage attached to the big empty building on the far north end of Arroyo Drive. It was the inspiration for a recent post, and here it serves as a melancholy study in shadow and light. There is something palpably sad and yearning about this place, and not just because it returns a pretty spooky echo when presented with footsteps. Is it possible for abandoned office buildings to be haunted? These asphalt ghosts feel poetic. (Maybe they never really wanted to be in business anyway...)
Remember when I recently looked up through my sunroof and saw this? Well, yesterday I looked up again in the same spot. This time, there was no rain. In fact, I don't even think those are clouds. I think the air actually curdled in the intense heat.
A group of teenage boys managed to play beach volleyball at Eddie Park the other day. Barefooted and shirtless, they didn't need sand or seawater. They had the net, the ball, the sun, the savvy, and absolutely no responsibilities on a Friday afternoon other than pwning each other with killer spikes and, in all probability, insulting each other's moms.
I saw part of the game as I drove by. On the drive back, I caught these three walking away with the joyful swagger of victory. Summer. It's such a grand battlefield for the young.
South Pasadena's long history has left behind countless little architectural treasures. If you pay attention, you'll notice marvelous leftovers of other eras ... sometimes literally under your feet. Like these deco steps leading the way to a friend's charming 1930s cottage. Can you imagine Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers tapping their way to the top?
Take a look at who was strutting around my neighborhood yesterday. Neighbors told me that a group* of peacocks live and breed somewhere in Monterey Hills, but nobody remembers seeing one below. The consensus was that this one is a young male -- too little to have grown the showy tail plumage yet but old enough to take off on an adventure.
Just when I thought South Pas couldn't get anymore magical. I mean, really now ... we already have wild parrots. But wild peacocks, too? I love this town!
(*A cursory look at the internet tells me that a group of peafowl is called a muster or an ostentation. Ostentation? Perfect!)
I missed a great shot of one of the prettiest old cars I've ever seen. It would have been ideal to include in my series. Picture it: a vintage white Thunderbird ...high polished, pristine, perfect. It was strategically parked in front of a Craftsman home yesterday and, wouldn't you know it, the batteries in my camera were bad. When I went back later, the car was gone.
J.D. Salinger once wrote, "I don't even like old cars. I mean they don't even interest me. I'd rather have a goddamn horse. A horse is at least human, for God's sake."
Well alrighty, then! That old white T-bird was derivative, anyway...
After so many days wrapped in the gray shroud of June, July has resurrected the summer with heat and light. Everywhere, new leaves and long grasses stretch out and bask. Even my otherwise stalwart sago palm got caught up in the season and presented a bouquet of new fronds. They looked so photogenic curling toward the afternoon sun.
It's official ... Glimpses of South Pasadena turns one year old today. And like all toddlers, it's beginning to cut its teeth and learn to run! Thanks to all of you, my dear readers, this blog has gone from a mere concept to a full-fledged creation. What I thought would be an exercise in simply chronicling my new town has turned into something much more. I am so grateful to everyone who contributes to nurturing this little blog baby of ours -- from my beloved daily commenters who give each post terrific history, insight and wit to the many email supporters who provide me with inspiration and motivation.
Thanks, everyone. Now, let's head toward the terrible twos, shall we?
Raymond Hill is situated on the north side of South Pasadena with panoramic views of Pasadena, San Marino and Los Angeles. The area has been the site of two very fancy, very doomed hotels. In 1886, the luxurious Raymond Hotel opened with great fanfare. It was built by Walter Raymond, owner of a Boston area travel agency who made his fortune packaging warm Southern California winter vacations to cold East Coast residents. Perhaps I should say that the Raymond opened with great fanfare. As a guidebook at the time pointed out, "It is not necessary that one should say Raymond Hotel. There is but one Notre Dame, but one Acropolis, but one Colossus, and so there is but one Raymond." But one Raymond burned to the ground in less than an hour on Easter Sunday in 1895.
So, the hotel was rebuilt at the turn of the century and served as a destination spot for several decades until it was consumed by the economic inferno of the Great Depression. As tourism dwindled in the years following the stock market crash, Walter Raymond could no longer pay the mortgage and eventually the hotel was destroyed by a wrecking ball.
The housing boom of the post-war mid 1940s to early 1950s brought new growth to Raymond Hill. Where the rich and famous once wined and dined, working families now filled dozens of modest apartment houses. Many buildings are still there, giving the place a distinct mid-century vibe that reminds me of a different Southern California Raymond: Raymond Chandler.
This view, looking out over Pasadena, makes me understand why Chandler saw Los Angeles as both dark and light. The cactus, the smokestacks, the city, the mountains -- it's such a study in contrast. Trouble boiling beneath a surface paradise. Flowers growing over a rotten underbelly. And wouldn't you know? As I was taking this shot, I smelled an overpowering scent of honeysuckle. Or, as Walter Neff said in the classic Chandler-penned film noir Double Indemnity, "It was a hot afternoon, and I can still remember the smell of honeysuckle all along that street..." Check out a great scene from the film right here.
(For all things related to Raymond Hill history, you can't beat Jane Apostol's magnificent book highlighted here. )
When I was a little girl, my mother taught me about the color wheel. Somewhere in her explanation, however, I missed out on the fact that it was a chart, just a graphical representation of the hues that we see and their relationship to one another. I thought the color wheel was an actual place. The Color Wheel. You know, like Yellowstone National Park or The Blue Ridge Mountains or The White House. Oh, I mused to myself, I'll bet The Color Wheel is HUGE! I'll bet it is twenty stories high, filling up the entire sky and casting a giant multicolored shadow!
I was pretty bummed out when I found out the truth.
Maybe that's why I get such a kick out of wildly colored houses like this one. I may not be able to make a trek to The Color Wheel, but I live in South Pasadena. I get to see these technicolor wonders whenever I want.
Would you believe this is the second yard scarecrow I've spotted in the last few weeks? The first one stood guard over a well-tended patch of herbs in a ritzy Los Angeles neighborhood. And get this: it was wearing what looked like a Betsey Johnson dress. Nothing like a bad economy to give us new uses for high priced fashion. (I think it's a great idea. Frankly, some Betsey Johnson fabric prints scare ME!)
I noticed this less couture scarecrow in the side yard garden of one of South Pasadena's biggest mansions. It might not make the best-dressed list, but that's okay. Home-grown vegetables are always in vogue.
Something strange has been going on at Orange Grove Park. First, this really ginormous pole went up. See how it dwarfs the light post? Then city workers dug, as my daughter pointed out, "the biggest hole in the whole wide world" in the field right underneath the pole. Next, they reinforced the hole with steel and turned it into some kind of hatch before covering it up again. (A hatch! Just like LOST! I knew South Pasadena was a portal to some otherworldly dimension ... and now I have proof!)
So, the other day this guy up there was tinkering with something at the top of the pole. I'm sure there is a perfectly reasonable cover story explanation. But if I were to guess? I'm betting on a strategic message broadcast to intelligent life forms across the galaxy. Or maybe it's a cloaking device, something to preserve South Pasadena's small-town vibe. Or a necessary prong, constructed to keep the universe from collapsing. And why not? After all, JPL is just a few miles away...
Someone had been working in this Huntington office building the other night with paint brushes, a circular saw and a nail gun. When I took a closer look in the window, I saw a worn paperback of Great American Short Stories splayed on the floor next to a pile of lumber. Of course, I thought about a poem:
Day Job and Night Job by Andrew Hudgins
After my night job, I sat in class and ate, every thirteen minutes, an orange peanut—butter cracker. Bright grease adorned my notes.
At noon I rushed to my day job and pushed a broom enough to keep the boss calm if not happy. In a hiding place, walled off
by bolts of calico and serge, I read my masters and copied Donne, Marlowe, Dickinson, and Frost, scrawling the words I envied,
so my hand could move as theirs had moved and learn outside of logic how the masters wrote. But why? Words would never heal the sick,
feed the hungry, clothe the naked, blah, blah, blah. Why couldn't I be practical, Dad asked, and study law—
or take a single business class? I stewed on what and why till driving into work one day, a burger on my thigh
and a sweating Coke between my knees, I yelled, "Because I want to!"— pained—thrilled!—as I looked down from somewhere in the blue
and saw beneath my chastened gaze another slack romantic chasing his heart like an unleashed dog chasing a pickup truck.
And then I spilled my Coke. In sugar I sat and fought a smirk. I could see my new life clear before me. lt looked the same. Like work.
South Pasadena's exquisite collection of vintage automobiles made the Fourth of July Festival of Balloons parade a thrill on wheels. These three antique beauties were just the beginning. Want to see more? Cruise on over to my overflow blog for enough sweet rides to drive car aficionados right into shock. (Don't say I didn't warn you...)
Every lamp post on Mission Street is decked out in patriotic finery for the annual South Pasadena Festival of Balloons. Don't let the name confuse you ... it's all about the parade. That's right: a real, old-fashioned, Mayberry-worthy, small-town parade complete with shiny fire trucks, marching bands and, as the name would suggest, hundreds upon hundreds of balloons.
Festivities start bright and early with a Kiwanis Club-sponsored pancake breakfast from 7:00 to 1100AM at the firehouse. Then, when everyone is well-fed and caffeinated, the parade begins. It takes off at Mission and Diamond and makes its way down to the big picnic at Garfield Park. At 5:00PM, the South Pasadena football field serves a dual purpose as buffet line and dance floor with food, family fun and entertainment all the way up to the South Pasadena Rotary Club-sponsored fireworks extravaganza at 9:00PM. (I know those fabulous Rotarians -- and they are sure to put on a great show.)
As faithful GOSP-reader Dbdubya commented yesterday, "no one celebrates the Fourth of July like South Pasadena." (Find out more about the Festival of Balloons right here. And for other wonderful Fourth of July musings/images/video from other local bloggers, be sure to check out altadenahiker, Petrea at Pasadena Daily Photo, and pasadena adjacent. )
The view from just below the water tower in Monterey Hills is pretty spectacular. In fact, I'm surprised it's not crowded with skygazers at every sunset. (Then again, I suppose those No Trespassing signs do tend to discourage most people...)
Isn't this one of the more cinematic homes you've ever seen? It is? Well then, amuse me with your plot lines, people. I know I've asked this many times before ... but if this were the setting of a scene in a film, what do think would happen here?
Theme Day is here again for those of us in the City Daily Photo blogging community. This month's theme is Empty. It's odd to find an empty parking structure anywhere in the greater Los Angeles area -- and this one in South Pas just begged for a study in dramatic high contrast. Do you find it forbidding? Depressing? Bleak? Yeah, that's what I thought, too.
But emptiness has gotten a bad rap by a great many Western thinkers who tend to frame the subject in messages of loneliness, despair, alienation and nihilism. Eastern philosophers, however, view it as a positive state. In fact, the Sanskrit noun sunyata has to do with the idea that nothing possesses any real enduring identity -- so insight into this phenomena (or non-phenomena) leads to wisdom and inner peace. The Buddhist version of emptiness resembles a thought-free wakefulness that focuses not on the past or future. Taoists view it as a stillness of pure mind. Ommmmmmm.....
Okay, I'm not sure I grasp it. But then again, my mind is far too cluttered to approach anything resembling Eastern wisdom. In fact, my view of emptiness has far more in common with Sartre -- or perhaps late 70s Woody Allen -- than anything Lao Tse might have written.
But look at how I've gone on. I've filled up half a page on a post that was supposed to be about emptiness. Why not check out some of the other talented City Daily Photobloggers to see their interpretation of today's theme: Click here to view thumbnails for all participants
In December of 2007, after many years on the west side of Los Angeles (and at least a third of those years spent stuck in traffic on Pico Boulevard) my family settled into a happy little house in South Pasadena. This daily blog covered over 4 year as I put down roots in my new home town.
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Check out my multimedia column archive: Views from the Front Porch
Published at Patch.
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Thank you Charlie's Coffee House for hosting my recent photo exhibit, South Pas: Observed. From October 2011 through January 2012 my pictures graced the walls of the best place in town to get a cup of coffee!
Read the nifty story on photo bloggers Petrea Burchard, Ben Wideman, Kat Likkel and little old me featured in the September, 2011 issue of Pasadena Magazine.
For over 4 years, I presented a picture a day from South Pasadena, California -- an incorporated city within the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. All photos up to November, 2008 were taken with a Fujifilm Finepix E900 camera. I added a Fujifilm Finepix S2000HD megazoom in December 2008, a Nikon D3100 in 2010 and a Lumix DMC-DS8 in 2011. I shot with them all. In August 2010 I joined the iPhone camera craze and sometimes included pictures captured by my phone. I regularly cropped images and used basic editing software to adjust the brightness, intensify the contrast, and increase color saturation. Other than that, all images came straight from the camera with minimal alteration. (If I couldn't have done it in a darkroom, I wouldn't do it with a computer.)
The bigger picture:
Consider it a love letter to the place I call home.
You can click on any picture to see a larger version.
All photos and prose on this blog copyright Laurie Allee. Reproduction without written permission is prohibited. (Plus, it's really uncool.)
Run, don't walk to the nearest bookseller and pick up a copy of Margaret Finnegan's delightful debut novel, The Goddess Lounge -- undoubtedly the kookiest, most wonderful riff on Homer's Odyssey ever written. Margaret never ceases to inspire and make us laugh at her blog Finnegan Begin Again. Her book is magical, silly, smart and a wonderful love letter to the all the goddesses among us.
Kevin McCollister of East of West LA blows our minds with haunting images of Los Angeles. But since we can't put his blog on our coffee table, we can buy his fantastic book. I believe Kevin's images truly capture the quixotic and often heartbreaking soul of LA. Don't take my word for it, see what The LA Times had to say.