"A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease."
At the turn of the last century, before Garfield Park was a park, it was a brambly-wild patch of land owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad. South Pas leased the seven-acres for a number of years before finally purchasing it in 1920 and transforming it into the jewel in South Pasadena's crown.
Even with a modern playground and tennis courts, Garfield Park feels a bit like a garden from a lost era. (All those old-fashioned rosebushes! That wonderful sign!) And although the park suffered significant tree loss from last year's windstorm, the place still beckons with plenty of shady spots to have a picnic or just take in the rolling hills, vintage streetlamps and chattering birds. (I'm particularly fond of that tree in the background, even though it's just about to burst into a giant white puffball and send me for the nearest bottle of allergy medicine. Ah, the price of beauty...)
I once had a professor who insisted that some of the most haunting film noir scenes did not take place in shadowy alleys or low-rent bars, but rather in ordinary suburban settings that seemed innocuous on the surface, but hinted at something lurking below. Remember that insane carousel scene from Strangers on a Train? I had an entirely new view of amusement parks after seeing that film.
David Lynch'sBlue Velvet probably cornered the market on creepiness beneath the picket fences of suburbia, but that film built on the foundation of the works of writers like James Cain and Raymond Chandler. To this day, I can't look at a happy Mayberry scene without imagining the way Chandler would have described it.
I remember being surprised to learn that Chandler lived in some truly white-bread neighborhoods in Los Angeles County. I always pictured him in a seedy walk-up in Hollywood, not a cozy little bungalow in Monrovia. But maybe he understood what my film professor was trying to say. Maybe he liked imagining potential darkness inside every sunny American dream.
(I think Chandler would have loved the iPhone MoreMono app. It turns everything into Marlowe's playground.)
Problems always seem to recede into the shadows when I take a walk at night. It's hard to maintain vigilant focus when you're tucked into all those deep blues, blacks and greens. I can't feel too bleak when windows and streetlamps splash all that gold light around. If the day favors reality, night leans toward the imagination, mystery and dreams.
(And a smooth, pearly moon is a nice counterpoint to a sandpaper day.)
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 while back.) 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. Recently, a reader living in China asked if I had any stormy views from Monterey Hills looking toward the San Gabriels. Here you go...
"These trees are magnificent, but even more magnificent is the sublime and moving space between them, as though with their growth it too increased.”
--Rainer Maria Rilke
What a perfect thought for Mother's Day: the sublime and moving space created by our children as we watch them grow. We are more magnificent because of those little acorns. Our growth is increased along with theirs and no matter how wide the spaces become, our roots are entwined in a never ending hug.
They have been with us a long time. They will outlast the elms. Our eyes, like the eyes of a savage sieving the trees In his search for game, Run through them. They blend along small-town streets Like a race of giants that have faded into mere mythology. Our eyes, washed clean of belief, Lift incredulous to their fearsome crowns of bolts, trusses, struts, nuts, insulators, and such Barnacles as compose These weathered encrustations of electrical debris¬ Each a Gorgon’s head, which, seized right, Could stun us to stone. Yet they are ours. We made them. See here, where the cleats of linemen Have roughened a second bark Onto the bald trunk. And these spikes Have been driven sideways at intervals handy for human legs. The Nature of our construction is in every way A better fit than the Nature it displaces What other tree can you climb where the birds’ twitter, Unscrambled, is English? True, their thin shade is negligible, But then again there is not that tragic autumnal Casting-off of leaves to outface annually. These giants are more constant than evergreens By being never green.
The raw food people tell us that the secret to health and longevity is consumption of copious amounts of uncooked, unprocessed vegetables and fruits. Paleo eaters maintain that our hunter/gatherer genes require animal protein, lower carbohydrates and, yes, some of those raw, unprocessed vegetables. Then again, the Aruvedic experts chime in with advice to make sure to eat warm, cooked energy foods -- like potatoes -- to mitigate the effects of excess pitta in your dosha. Mind/Body experts tell us that our happiness index largely determines our health, and that adding moderate amounts of sugar and caffeine boosts our brain serotonin, making us feel happier and, in turn, boosting our immune systems.
Well. I have the perfect solution:
In n Out's number 1 combo, protein style. Yup. The ultimate health food is a lettuce-wrapped burger, fries and a coke.
Stay with me, here. It's got enough red meat to make the paleo eaters happy without a big, bad, industrialized, overprocessed white flour bun. The lettuce and tomato on the burger are raw, and you know what that means ... unadulterated micronutrients, people! Add a few pitta-extinguishing french fries and an happiness-inducing/energy-boosting coke and you've got a meal worthy of its own food pyramid.
South Pasadena's historical Raymond Hotel is only a memory, but Pasadena's Castle Green reminds us of our region's whimsical and opulent past. Built in 1898 as annex to the world famous Hotel Green, the Castle Green is a 7-story Moorish delight.
At the turn of the last century, San Gabriel Valley residents and tourists could ride bikes on the Great California Cycleway -- Horace Dobbins' elevated wooden bike path leading from Hotel Green to just past South Pasadena's Raymond Hotel. Original plans called for the bike path to meander along the Arroyo, tunneling through the hills of Elysian Park all the way to Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles. There were even plans for a Swiss dairy in Highland Park, and a grand casino called Merlemount to be built in South Pasadena's Lower Arroyo Park. (Learn more about the cycleway here and here with history of the freeway that eclipsed bike paths in my previous post here.) Although the cycleway was never completed (and South Pas never became a gambling mecca) the elevated bike path from Pasadena to South Pas was the place to see and be seen.
I've seen this car cruising in South Pas before, but never had a camera handy to get a shot of it. I got lucky the other day and noticed it on Huntington when I was headed toward the Santa Anita Mall in Arcadia. Who me? Obsessed with vintage cars? Nah. I like to think of it like birdwatching. (Only cooler.)
Are you sick of palm trees yet? Sick of golden pink skies?
Too bad! With the incredible sunset light of late, I just can't help myself.
For those of you paying attention, yes, I completely spaced out about this month's City Daily Photo Theme Day. (Don't blame me, I'm dazed from staring into the setting sun!) This month's theme is Bakeries. If I'd been paying attention, I would have highlighted South Pasadena's delightful Heirloom Bakery (Wait a minute, I've done that already...) You can still get your vicarious sugar rush by checking out my fellow City Daily bloggers for shots of yummy treats from around the world.
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.
My New Blog Launching 2013
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.