Sunday, August 31, 2008

Quantum Mechanics... and the Farmers Market?


Schrödinger said it was the defining trait of quantum theory. What is it? It’s that quirky talent discovered by quantum physicists whereby a weird telepathic link allows teeny tiny subatomic particles to mysteriously influence each other’s properties even if they are very far away from one another. These particles are linked together -- or entangled -- so that one can't be sufficiently described without a full mention of its counterpart. In fact, you can instantly influence the properties of a particle on the opposite end of the universe by merely nudging its entangled twin. Some say the power travels at millions of times the speed of light. Even Einstein was baffled. He called it too spooky to be real.

Okay, so I can’t really get my head around it either.

But it gets me thinking…

The overly simplified but deeply poetic explanation of chaos theory told us that a butterfly beating its wings can eventually lead to a storm on the other side of the world. Everything is connected. Everything affects everything else. Some physicists now think quantum entanglement has macro implications, too.

So lets extrapolate ... or perhaps just take huge license with scientific theory. Sometimes it really does feel like little patches of life are oddly harmonious, as if seemingly separate things -- and people -- are somehow connected. For example: here at the Farmer’s Market the other day the people strolling along seemed to just fall into a perfectly aligned formation and simultaneously smile, as if each separate individual was – somehow – inextricably linked. I couldn't have choreographed it any better. Coincidence? Probably. Entanglement? Heck, I'm gonna go with that...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Coffee with a side of archetypal psychological analysis

Jung said that confronting a person with his shadow was to show him his own light. “Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites,” he said, “one begins to understand what is meant by the self. Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle.”

So, would you believe that’s exactly what happened to me here? Or, maybe it was just a cool shot I noticed by looking down late afternoon outside of Starbucks.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Good Question


In miracles?
Second chances?
Fairies in the garden?
A free lunch?
An anti-aging cream that actually works?
A giant fish that got away?
The check’s in the mail?
My dog ate my homework?

One can receive philosophical questioning from the strangest sources. This query comes from a boarded-up store window on Fair Oaks, just down from the Masonic Center. Or maybe it is just a figment of my imagination. What would you believe?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nicole's Gourmet Foods

It’s not quite Montparnasse, but Meridian Avenue offers South Pas a little taste of France . First, there is the lovely Bistro de la Gare – my favorite French café – and right next door is Nicole’s Gourmet Foods. If it’s French and fabulous: Nicole’s carries it. We’re talking pates, caviar, foie gras, truffles, duck confit, olives, butter, chocolates, wines (of course!) and literally hundreds and hundreds of cheeses. You can also find some delightful oils and vinegars, baked goods and a yummy array of soups, salads and sandwiches. Nicole Grandjean and her son Steven opened their first spot in Pasadena in 1996. Lucky for South Pas, they moved here in 2001.

This jeune fille seemed unimpressed with the many varieties of brie but appeared content to munch on some potato chips. Mais naturellement!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Light in August

I love the way long shadows fall into burnished light this time of year. Astronomers and other science-minded types will explain that it has to do with the sun’s declination, but such a clinical exposition doesn’t identify the magic. It doesn’t adequately define the protracted shadows cast in golden light that creep into the landscape in the weeks before the air pulls a chill into its grasp. It’s the glow of late summer that highlights the clean slate of a new school year. Can you see it here?

It’s that special light in August.

And it reminds me of the Faulkner book of the same name , which seems appropriate to note during this remarkable time in our history. In the novel, that golden light in August was a metaphor for a newborn child -- the "light" of the new generation that was not tainted by the prejudice, racism, and hatred of the past. As we go into the presidential election, let us marvel at our own light in August: for the first time we have a candidate who half a century ago would not have been allowed to sit at the front of a bus, much less at the helm of a political party; a candidate almost bested by a party rival who, a mere 88 years ago, would not have been allowed to vote much less run for office. I'm not talking about the politics. This isn’t about Left vs. Right. I'm talking about the progress. This is about Light vs. Darkness.

Here’s to a new generation lighting the way out of our limited and prejudiced past.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More than books...

The South Pasadena Public Library grounds are almost never empty. You'll regularly find our city's residents reading, picnicking, catching rays, perching on the steps, chatting on the benches and, in this case, dancing barefoot in the grass.

And why not? It's a mellow and uplifting spot to feed your head as well as wiggle your toes.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Masonic Lodge

I’ll admit, I never really gave Freemasonry much thought. As a woman, I would not be allowed to join – so that fact alone pretty much tamped down any real interest in the organization. I hope I don’t offend anyone by admitting that I imagined it to be a boys club less concerned with moral or metaphysical ideals and more interested in playing card games while wearing funny hats.

But then again, I’m hopelessly irreverent that way.

I know the Masons have been the subjects of a lot of conjecture – but the whole X Files, Da Vinci Code deciphering, Illuminati/World Domination milieu is kind of overblown. Right?

Today I looked up and saw this façade. Wow. This is an impressively mysterious doorway worthy of respect -- and possibly a conspiracy theorist’s renewed speculation. It’s sandwiched between a frame store and a nail salon on Fair Oaks. I’m still not sure what those Masons do in there, but they sure have some inspiring architecture.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The South Pasadena Unified School District Administration Building

A few days ago, I showed you the beautiful arches of the South Pasadena Unified School District Administrative building. Here is another view of the structure. Thanks to blog reader Mister Earl for pointing out that the building was originally a school. To be exact, the site was first home to the Center Street School, built in 1885.

According to the book South Pasadena by Rick Thomas: in 1928 the school was rebuilt by the architectural firm of Marsh, Smith and Powell who gave us the building you see here. It has been used to house the school district administrative offices since 1979.

Thankfully, this lovely place has suffered only minimal alteration. It looks a lot like it did when it was built except for a tower that was removed in 1949 for earthquake safety concerns. In 1952, the original school bell was taken down placed in front of the building. I don't think the city has to worry about anybody trying to steal the thing -- it weighs a quarter ton and was cast of solid iron way back in 1889.

I love to linger here when I walk by, and I often do. (It's right across from Kaldi as well as the library.) I've already mentioned how much I like those impossibly whimsical multicolored bricks as well as the funny W-shaped squiggles on the arch columns. But take a look in the lower left corner at that fallen section of the low wall. The rest of the building is so pristine and perfect, I like the flaw of that off-kilter tilt. I don't know who or what knocked it over (a rowdy teenager? An earthquake?) but I hope nobody ever fixes it.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Briganti Restaurant

Doesn't this courtyard look inviting? I have no excuse for not yet trying out the charming Briganti Restaurant on Mission just west of Fair Oaks. I walked past this cozy patio the other day when the staff was preparing to open for dinner. I'm not sure if it was the setting or the tempting wafts of garlic but I had to stop and snap a picture. I think it's a nice use of the space between two buildings. I really love cafes like this: warm and intimate and tucked into little corners.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Farmers Market

The South Pasadena Farmer's Market offers its festive carnival vibe every Thursday afternoon into evening. It provides a lush selection of locally grown produce and flowers, cool handmade goodies and a staggering selection of prepared food from local and regional eateries.

It's also a simply awesome place to watch people. These two cast a megawatt glow over the place yesterday. Love is grand.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Door of Perception

If you walk along Mission, just before you get to Fair Oaks you’ll pass this amazing door. Check it out: the detailed stonework… the arch… the atomic age warning sign with mysterious numbers…


Okay, so I could have researched this to find out exactly what goes on behind that door but I’m having too much fun imagining a mythical chimera under a dome of glass or Dr. Strangelove in front of a giant map of the world or a large round table with arguing superheroes…

Who says nothing ever happens in a small town?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Late Night at Mission Station

Yes, we have a delicate hatchling of light rail mass transit in Los Angeles. If you take the Metro Gold Line and get off at Mission, you’ll find yourself in the heart of South Pasadena. If you continue on one way you'll make it to East Pasadena. The other way will swing past Chinatown and eventually let you out at Union Station.

It's just one line in the Metro system but there are others. This is the quiet counterpoint to omnipresent freeway disharmony. (Maybe eventually it will become’s our region’s leitmotif.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Concrete Rose

Neighboring Pasadena is known as the rose city, but this mysterious South Pasadena Rose fascinates me. I step over her name every time I take a walk in my neighborhood and with each crossing I wonder who she was and when she made this defiant mark in the sidewalk cement. I think names written in concrete are wonderful things – and for whatever reason, South Pasadena sidewalks have a lot of them. Unlike cemetery markers – so final, so respectful, so literal – these signatures are a testament to a city’s playful, chest-thumping whimsy. Whoever Rose is or was, one day she leaned down, picked up a stick and left this statement that she was here, a part of this place. Right on, Rose! The next time I see a patch of wet cement, I’ll be hard pressed not to do the same thing.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Time Warp

I was enjoying a cup of coffee on the bench outside Busters with my family yesterday. I noticed a beautiful, thoughtful young woman through the window, just inches from us but separated by glass. Suddenly, I saw an interesting and heartwarming reflection: my own thoughtful little daughter’s silhouette almost superimposed against the image of a lovely future version of her.

My little girl jumped up to climb in her Daddy's lap. The young woman turned away. The light changed. But this is what I captured in that passing moment.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Little Details

Old buildings have such magnificent minutiae. I love the varying colors of the bricks that make up the beautiful old South Pasadena Unified School District administrative building. But what really get me are the little zigzag Ws on all the columns.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cappy's World of Spirits

I've never actually been inside. I can't even tell you for sure if it's open for business -- butcher paper on the windows is always a bad sign. I can, however, try to describe some of the many ways I love this place...

First, it's not called Cappy's liquor store. Instead, it's the more ethereal "Cappy's World of Spirits." That sounds to me like you could go in and find Aleister Crowley behind the counter levitating as he rings up your bottle of Jack Daniels, and possibly a secret back door painted with a golden triangle or an eye of Horus. Next, the sign proffers general merchandise -- something vaguely quaint and 19th Century, and perfectly suited for our historic little town. It also promises gifts. But gifts in a World of Spirits store that also offers general merchandise sound like no gifts I've ever received. And why aren't any of them displayed in the window? Finally, it has that odd picture of the man in the hat. I assume the man is Cappy. I like not knowing whether or not the man is Cappy. Throw in those gorgeous old bricks and the cool street lamp and now you can see why I just had to take a picture.

I'm sure someone in the area has a story or two about Cappy's. I'd love to hear it.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Summer Night

Global warming notwithstanding, Los Angeles area residents are lucky when it comes to weather. Okay, there are the occasional earthquakes. And the smog. And the alternating droughts/floods with ensuing fires/mudslides. But other than that … it’s pretty great to be here year round . Usually, it’s around 76 degrees. Even with 90-something summer days, the evenings cool off enough to put on a light sweater and the relative humidity is low enough that we rarely see mosquitoes. Native Californians will argue with me on this last point. But I grew up in Texas where the humidity is just shy of swamp and the mosquitoes are the size of police helicopters. (In the greater Los Angeles area we just have the actual police helicopters. But usually they don’t bite.)

When my family moved from our beach-adjacent location on the west side here to South Pasadena on the east side, I was convinced the hotter weather would be a terrible shock. Temperatures in the sprawling Los Angeles region can vary by 20 degrees depending on whether you are in Santa Monica or downtown, Culver City or Northridge, and South Pasadena is one of the hotter spots. But so far my first South Pas summer has been lovely. A brief heat wave in June, and temperate, wonderful summer ever since. Some nights lately have been downright chilly.

I saw these two stopped in front of the library around 10:00PM one warmer evening, giggling into a cell phone and glowing under that streetlamp. Here’s to summer nights.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Settings: Part 2

Blame it on those years in film school. I often envision a place as a location in a movie. Want to play along? Walk down Fair Oaks toward Huntington and turn the corner just as you pass the old Rialto Theater. This is what you see. Now, you tell me … what happens in this scene?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lash Out

Okay, help me out here. New eyelashes? I’ve been caught up with raising a toddler and I am often out of the loop but, honestly, new eyelashes? I’ve never really given that much thought to my eyelashes – other than to coat them with Great Lash every morning for the last 30 years and wish they were Bambi-ish and fringy like my friend Pat’s – so I didn’t realize this was an area that might need serious enhancement. Then again, this is Southern California so there will be no beauty stone unturned. (Or eyelash unrenewed.)

I snapped this outside Puff Salon on Mission. I always see really beautiful, ultra hip looking people going in and out of there so I’m sure they’re on to something…

Kid Stuff

South Pasadena has a lot of children. At a glance, this place adds plenty of demographic support to the recently reported American baby boomlet. I don’t know official South Pas numbers, but if you go by Baby Bjorn, stroller and big wheel sightings: our town has about umpteen bazillion kids.

As one of the rug-rat set myself, I think it’s pretty wonderful. This is a spectacular city to settle down and raise a child. The schools are some of the best in Southern California. The town itself looks like it could have been rendered by Tasha Tudor or Eulalia Banks . My little daughter finds a potential playmate every time we go outside for a walk. But what’s really nice is South Pasadena’s sense of balance. It’s not that kid stuff eclipses everything else. Nope. It’s all included together in a city culture that encourages family togetherness without forgetting that adults need choices other than Build a Bear or Chuck E. Cheese and that children might be less obnoxious if they hung out with adults more.

I think Jerry Seinfeld is the one who said, "there is no such thing as fun for the whole family." (Anyone who has a kid will laugh at this joke.) Life in South Pasadena may not definitively prove him wrong but it weakens his argument. Most cafes here have menus with chicken tenders or a grilled cheese sandwich thoughtfully placed among the goat cheese salads and portabello mushroom pasta. On Mission Street there is a toy store, a children’s furniture store and a kid’s party store. Not to worry, there are also two excellent wine shops and a couple of galleries. Something for everybody. Balance. Adult stuff, kid stuff, and not a Chuck E. Cheese in sight. .

Here are two little South Pasadena kiddos I spotted dancing at the concert in Garfield Park. They weren't far from the guys in yesterday’s post.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dancing in the Park

Sunday evening was the final night of summer concerts in Garfield Park for 2008. The Surfin Safaris rocked our little hamlet with enough ripping surf tunes to ollie a tube all the way here from Santa Monica. It was a great scene with plenty of food, fun and families. The guys in my photo had a blast hanging loose during the last set.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Craftsman Detail

If you move to South Pasadena, chances are you have an affinity (possibly bordering on obsession) for the Arts and Crafts movement. You’ll find hundreds of Craftsman homes in these few square miles, one after another, tucked humbly under generations-old shade trees like little zen mushrooms.

There are so many reasons to love this period in design. For one thing, it’s inherently rebellious. While scholars tend to place the beginning of the movement to William Morris’ 1850’s Red House, the true genesis has to be around a quarter century earlier when an upstart architect named Augustus Pugin had the gall to criticize the emerging industrial revolution. He said it was a wedge that separated designer/artist from worker. From his (and every humanist’s) point of view, division of labor cheated workers out of any sense of connectedness to their work. With tasks divvied up, laborers never saw a project through from beginning to end. Time-honored principles of design and quality were out. In? A new zeal for economy and profit. (Hmmmm… sound familiar?)

It’s no wonder the “revolution through art and design” went viral. The idea was simple: find joy in work, create well-designed things that everyone could afford, live simply, stay connected to nature and maintain an integrity of “place.” These ideas transformed architectural thought.

Since the movement emphasized a spiritual attunement with one’s surroundings, home should compliment nature and offer sanctuary from the mechanized urban squalor where so many people went to work. Gustav Stickley believed that a home reduced to its simplest state was one that had “a character so natural and unaffected that it seems to blend with any landscape.” The Victorian home screamed “Look at me!” The Craftsman home whispered, “Don’t mind me…”

The bungalow – a term dating back to simple structures with porches used in 19th Century India – exemplifies the Arts and Crafts ethos. Made of natural materials with pitched roofs, exposed rafters, handcrafted woodwork and art glass, Craftsman bungalows are truly grand in their simplicity. And the San Gabriel Valley is loaded with them.

It’s difficult to photograph these buildings because they so deftly blend with their surroundings. Take a photo of a street full of Craftsman houses and you’ll end up looking at a hodgepodge of pretty browns and greens, of porches that tuck deep into shadow and sloping rooftops that bounce the sunlight skyward (and into your camera.) Like all magical things, the Craftsman home is impossible to capture.

But I’ll try. I look forward to posting many (many!) images of my town’s historic gems. Let’s start here with a simple image that highlights a few wonderful Craftsman details: a deep set porch under exposed rafters, perfect for long afternoons spent enjoying the temperate Southern California weather. River rock posts. Muted colors. That whimsical shape of the trim around the Mission style door and window. .

Simple. Beautiful.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Wild Garden

Sometimes it pays to peek over a neighbor’s fence. No well-watered impatiens, no mulched beds or pruned rose bushes, not even a hardy geranium for a splash of pink. Those are all nice, but so is this effusion of carefree summer green. We gardeners edit -- but Mother Nature has fun with stream of consciousness landscaping.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Settings: Part 1

Everywhere I turn in South Pasadena, I see a great setting for a movie. No wonder the film industry loves this town. There are so many picturesque spots.

Here we have Husco German Auto Service on Mission. I’m sure it’s a fine place to have the oil changed in your Audi. But it looks like a backdrop for something -- expecially in black and white. So here’s a challenge: what do you think happens in this scene?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Out of the Closet Thrift Store

How's this for a groovy neon sign? Proudly self-described as “the world’s most fabulous thrift store,” Out of the Closet is one of Southern California’s treasures. Since 1990, what started as a single store (and a great idea) has grown into a chain with outlets all over Southern California, Northern California and most recently Florida. The organization is owned and operated by AIDS Healthcare Foundation -- the largest specialized provider of AIDS treatment and advocacy regardless of patient ability to pay. Sales from the stores raise funds for the medical and counseling services AHF provides. Four thrift store locations even offer confidential free HIV testing utilizing a state of the art rapid response test with results in 20 minutes, and counseling available in a private area of the store. Since the height of the AIDS crisis, Out of the Closet has been an excellent source of HIV support and information. The South Pasadena store is located on Fair Oaks, across from Vons.

Way back in the early 90s I found all kinds of fantastic clothes at the store in West Hollywood. (I still love my 1950s black satin full-length gloves and matching clutch.) I discovered a 1930s pink art deco lusterware teapot, sugar bowl and creamer there… for $18! You just never know what you'll find at one of these stores. Each one still manages to deliver amazing finds when – after decades of Boho chic and the resulting raid on all things vintage -- most other thrift stores are well picked over. Shop there. Donate there. I think the world needs more of this kind of big-hearted and innovative thinking.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Bistro de la Gare

Bistro de la Gare is one of my favorite restaurants. Located literally steps from the Mission Gold Line station, it features simple French fare served by complicated French waiters in an atmosphere so cozy you definitely feel like kissing both cheeks of whoever you came with. In my experience, too many Los Angeles eateries try way too hard to impress. (Don’t get me started on the ‘Free Range Escargot” on a menu in another French restaurant in L.A.) Here, the warm red walls, beaded vintage light fixtures, antique carved wine bar and flickering red candles come together to make a perfectly lovely, authentic, unassuming setting. And the food? Délicieux! I’ve only been for dinner (savor a glass of Châteauneuf-Du-Pape with your Coeur de Filet Sauce Marchand de Vin) but I understand that for petit déjeuner the bistro's version of Eggs Benedict is out of this world.

Bring someone you love.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What should they do?

Well I'm glad that's settled!

This proclamation jumped out at me from the window of the Fast Frame shop on Mission. I know it refers to photographs or works in an art collection but the message is open to interpretation. If this building were to be unearthed by archaeologists in the next millennium, future civilizations might think our world had a strange set of priorities. (Hey, who knows what the words inscribed at the temple at Delphi really meant...)

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Meridian Iron Works

South Pasadena claims to have the oldest and most historic sites in the San Gabriel Valley. The Meridian Iron Works building is one of the town’s first structures, and it’s a charmer. It was built in 1887, about a year before South Pasadena became the 6th incorporated Los Angeles County municipality. First it was a grocery store and hotel, then later it was modified into a blacksmith and iron works shop. Today it serves as the South Pasadena Historical Museum . Funded and operated by the South Pasadena Preservation Society, the museum displays a permanent collection of artifacts from the earliest history of South Pas and the entire San Gabriel Valley. Occasionally the museum will show private collections. This past July, it hosted free outdoor movie nights on the adjacent lawn. It has a great selection of post cards, vintage photographs and other souvenirs.

The museum is open from 1-4 on Saturday and 3-8 on Thursday. Admission is free. (Stop in after shopping the Farmer’s Market!)

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Kaldi is a fantastic coffee house across from the South Pasadena Public Library. (Petrea over at Pasadena Daily Photo has a wonderful shot from the inside looking out.) The coffee is strong, the employees are friendly and the music is always eclectic and interesting. I find something irresistibly French New Wave about the place … like Truffaut and Godard should be sitting out front smoking and arguing about who will edit Cahiers du Cinéma

Or maybe just hanging out with these guys.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Personally, I think the trees upstage the actors...

When you live in the greater Los Angeles area, you get used to seeing film and TV crews. They’re everywhere. And it makes sense -- this is the world entertainment capital, and the region has some very notable scenery. Think about how many times you’ve watched a movie or show and seen the Santa Monica Pier or Rodeo Drive or the Pacific Coastal Highway.

But what happens when a production wants to shoot something that doesn’t look like Los Angeles? (I’ll sidestep discussing the trend of moving production jobs from Los Angeles to cheaper Toronto… ) What happens when a production needs a nearby location that looks, well, far away from Southern California? Perhaps even far away from the present time?

Hello South Pasadena!

The South Pasadena Film Office promotes our town as “Anywhere, USA” complete with a vintage art deco high school and “many tree lined streets without palm trees.” Not only that, it’s a one-stop shop for filmmakers: the police, public works and fire department are all handled by the Film Liaison. The film permit forms are even available online.

South Pas has quite a resume: Gone With the Wind, Legally Blonde 1 and 2, Back to the Future, The Player, The Terminator, Halloween, Bruce Almighty, Desperate Housewives, Flags of Our Fathers, Big Love, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Landscapers Challenge! (Just to name a few.) New productions roll in every month.

That's a pretty great career. Especially considering South Pasadena is waaaaaaaay over 30...

Friday, August 1, 2008

Speed Metal

City Daily Photo's Theme Day today is Metal.

It's a perfect excuse to post this photo from the recent South Pasadena Clean Air Car Show. Global warming? From this vantage point the future looks pretty cool.

Be sure to check out theme day entries from other Daily Photo bloggers around the globe: Click here to view thumbnails for all participants.