Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hawk Eyed

I occasionally see hawks around Los Angeles. Usually, they just cruise by high overhead. But for the most part the wild parrots rule the San Gabriel Valley -- and they are a territorial crew. That means any tough guy hawk poking his beak around here could be in for the bird equivalent of a street fight out of the movie Colors.

So not only is it unusual to see hawks close up in a residential neighborhood, but I'll wager it's extremely rare to see one fluttering around in various street puddles for days after a rain. Like this little guy, who managed to take three or four baths this week. (You'll just have to take my word for it. By the time I grabbed my camera, he was halfway down the street and up on this branch.)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Caption this photo... (#5)

I have nothing for this one, folks. Anyone want to take a crack at captioning this photo?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Joy on Two Wheels

South Pasadena streets accommodate a fair share of cyclists -- from casual riders pedaling old beach cruisers to competitive athletes whizzing down El Centro toward the Arroyo. (I fall squarely into the former category. My husband is closer to the latter.) H.G. Wells once wrote that after cycling, "One dream is inevitable. A memory of motion lingers in the muscles of your legs, and round and round they seem to go. You ride through Dreamland on wonderful dream bicycles that change and grow." I think he summed it up best when he said, "Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia." Indeed! Think there is no such thing as a free ride? Just hop on a bike. No other form of transportation feels quite as unencumbered. Or liberating.

And on a very personal note: Happy birthday, Groom! Here's to a year of wind at our backs in our own little Utopia...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Eddie Park after dark...

I originally posted about the lovely and magical Eddie Park here. I couldn't resist stopping and grabbing my tripod the other night when I drove past it and saw the old house lit up and glittering. (I know the logical explanation is that it was the setting for a meeting of some sort. But I like to think the ghosts were having a party.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Acropolis above South Pas?

I never know what I'm going to discover when I wander up and around South Pasadena's winding hills. (Hey, do you think this is where she lost her head?)

Monday, January 26, 2009

House Blend

After my recent focus on Craftsman architecture, I thought I'd break things up with a bit of Victorian. But wouldn't you know it? Arts and Crafts style still managed to sneak in. Look at the geometric positioning of slats in the porch railing, and notice the Craftsman-style windows. I love how these two designs merged a bit in the very early part of the 20th Century before Craftsman became more common.

UPDATE: Mister Earl -- my fabulous reader and researcher supreme -- discovered this great information about the house and a tour of the interior right here. Now I love the place even more!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Big Smile

We should think like a three year old...

My little daughter kept asking me when we were going to drive past "that happy face place" again. I had no idea what she meant until we were driving on El Centro and she pointed at the spartan Dynasty Iron Doors building and exclaimed, "There's that happy face place! See Mommy? That whole place is smiling."

Happy face place, indeed!

Yeah, there's a logical explanation for this sort of thing -- buzzkillers, those neuroscientists -- but I prefer, like my little girl, to assume the world is smiling at me. (And, apparently, so does this guy!)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Night Puddles

It rained yesterday. I just had to go slogging through the soaked grass at Garfield Park last night to capture those wet sidewalks. As usual, the resulting image makes me think of a poem -- this one by Langston Hughes:

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.

(I also thought of this great one by Bukowski...)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sidewalk Observation...

Yoga is said to help bring about states of harmony, balance and joy. Well, I'm a believer even without being a practitioner because every time I walk past Mission Street Yoga, I am struck by the pleasing combination of colors and textures -- it's a little bit of a trippy, happy holiday to just pass by.

Today, I noticed this woman in the window. Her shirt matches one column, her purse matches another, and she appears so perfectly placed, it's as if someone sent an art director ahead of me to set up a great shot . Harmony! Balance! Joy!

Remind me to check out the class schedule because I love the vibe of this place.

The Craftsman Challenge: Round 3


Finally, after months of futile snapping, here is an image that begins to hope to dare to possibly approximate what a Craftsman house actually looks like in person. (Though still not exactly. I am beginning to feel like one of those obsessed types who try to snag a shot of the Loch Ness monster. Or ghosts in The Rialto.)

Isn't it gorgeous? I don't think I'll ever stop marveling at these historical gems. South Pasadena simply glitters with them.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ocean Liquor Store

I haven't been inside this store. In fact, I haven't been inside any liquor store since I lived in Venice Beach in my 20s and bought Lotto tickets, Marlboro Reds and Pabst Blue Ribbon at a seedy place called Dan's Liquor Locker. (Ah, youth...)

But from all appearances, Ocean Liquor Store is well-stocked!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New President

A new president takes his oath today ... and I think we owe it to the country to pledge a few things, too. May we demand all that is honorable and investigate that which is questionable. May we expect a little more than is attainable and contribute all that is possible. May we allow for mistakes without making excuses. May we indulge in optimism without losing our critical thought. May we recognize that hope and change are most powerful when used as verbs ... and that each one of us must participate in our own government. May we cling fast to the strengths of our relatively young democracy: reason and lawfulness and fairness and freedom. And humor. And tenacity. May we insist upon accountability. (Ourselves, included.) May we rediscover humility. May we embrace diversity. May we offer the best of our dreams and wishes at a time when the zeitgeist shimmers with possibility.

And may we offer our warmest greetings to the new guy in charge.

Welcome, Mister President. Your country is waiting.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Oh, the Doo Dah day...

It was just a quick Metro ride from South Pas to Pasadena yesterday morning. Madcap fun filled the streets as the Doo Dah Parade made its way through Old Town. Check out the silliness on my overflow blog here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Color Wonders

I tend to go for houses painted in unconventional ways. But did you ever stop to think about why we respond to specific colors? Is it just an emotional reaction, or do different shades trigger physical changes on some bioelectric level?

When light hits the photoreceptor cells of your retina, it is converted into little electric impulses which dash right up to your brain and trigger a release of various hormones. Sunlight contains all wavelengths of color in the visible spectrum (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, and magenta) in addition to infrared and ultraviolet light, which we can‘t see. The body's various responses to the collection of colors contained in the sun's rays may contribute to why we feel so euphoric after a day at the beach.

Color has played a role in healing ever since the early human figured out that gazing at a calm blue sky eased a headache almost as well as chewing on white willow leaves. Indian Ayurveda -- the oldest healing modality in the world -- teaches that specific colors correspond to specific energy centers in the body. Ancient Egypt’s temple of Heliopolis contained compartments designed to break up the sun’s rays into different colors -- each thought to positively affect a different ailment. Even Babylon’s famed Hanging Gardens were touted as containing plants of all colors of healing.

When Newton played around with prisms and figured out how to fraction out the colors of light’s visible spectrum, physicians over the next century were so impressed with this magical discovery, they believed that targeted use of those colors could treat everything from smallpox to hysteria. Enterprising doctor Edwin Babbitt published a groundbreaking work on a new model of healing called chromatotherapy: Principles of Light and Color. Babbit’s work was followed up by a student Dinshah Gahdiali who spent years developing colored filters and specialized light fixtures known as Spectro-Chrome lamps. These devices were prematurely thought to be a cure for tuberculosis, diphtheria, gout, venereal disease and diabetes.

While these early docs appear to have overestimated color’s plausible healing potential, Swiss psychologist Max Luscher honed in on color preference as a marker for mental illness. (Supposedly if you liked dark colors, you were in bad emotional shape. Luscher would have definitely diagnosed most modern day creative types as wildly unstable due to our preference for black clothes. Then again, maybe he was on to something…)

Luscher’s contemporary Russian researcher S.V. Krakov devoted his work to studying the way different light wavelengths affected body responses like blood pressure and adrenal function -- studies that contemporary color therapists still recall, and justification for why hospital rooms are never painted bright red.

Rudolph Steiner and Theo Gimbel also investigated the therapeutic uses of color. They both suggested that the vibrational quality of different colors have either regenerative or destructive effects on living things.

In the last few decades, studies have shown the positive effects of full-spectrum light on everything from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) to insomnia and infertility. (Sunlight suppresses daytime release of melatonin and increases serotonin.) Full-spectrum light is also the first line of treatment for neonatal jaundice. And of course, in upscale spas all over the western world, new age types will offer high priced “treatments” in the form of various colored bottles of essential oils or tiny colored flashlights directed at acupuncture points.

I have no idea what physical ailment I may potentially heal by lingering at the steps of this colorful porch ... but I feel better just looking at it!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Winter Break

Forget the overcoats we wore all December ... tank tops and shorts are the new winter ensemble as Southern California basks in January's unexpected imitation of spring. With days reaching into the mid-eighties, everyone seems to want to linger outside. Even the lilies are blooming.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Gracie's Market

Need to grab refreshment before you catch the train? Gracie's Market is right across from the platform on Mission Street, and it beats the heck out of your average Circle K or 7-11. Sure, you can get the usual bag of potato chips and a red bull, but there is a lot more. This is definitely a hip take on a classic General Store. You can munch yummy old-fashioned molasses oatmeal cookies and sip dark roast Sumatran as you shop for paper towels and dish soap. You'll find basic home staples next to high end bath products and handpicked gift items -- all in a setting that resembles something out of a collaboration between Laura Ingalls Wilder and the guys from Queer Eye.

The entire Mission West District embodies the philosophy that form is equally as important as function. And what pretty form! Locally owned boutiques and service providers blend with a few small-scale chain stores along a beautiful stretch of sidewalk. In a world of soulless Big Box shops and strip malls, Mission Street is a lovely alternative -- and Gracie's fits right in.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Craftsman Challenge: Round 2

There are some things that just refuse to be pinned down -- like the meaning of life. And Craftsman houses.

I recently lamented my inability to adequately photograph the splendor of South Pasadena's many Craftsman homes. Shooting the moon without a zoom or a tripod is easier. Trying to effectively explain what a newborn baby's head smells like is easier. In real life, this house is a veritable wonder of texture and light, a majestic woodsy palace fit for a Goblin King. Here, in picture form, it's just a collection of pretty windows lost in the dappled shade. Some blame the recessed porches for creating too much shadow. Others curse the light bounced from the pitched roof. I just think all of these structures are equipped with some kind of magical early 20th Century cloaking device that won't allow reproduction in any form.

But kudos to my fellow San Gabriel Valley bloggers for stepping up to the challenge! Petrea presents a world-class effort here and follows up here, Ben gives us a nifty shot here, Mister Earl is on a roll here and here and with a most lighthearted touch here, Sarah Jane over at Hatching a Patch takes the initiative with this great entry , GOSP reader Barbra jumped right in with these lovely shots on her blog, and Keith may have earned the title Craftsman Smackdown King with this great shot although Elaine way up north in Willits throws it down pretty hard with this fantastic image. Nice job, gang. But we all still know that Craftsman homes belong to a rare breed of California superstars: they really do look better in person.

Still, the quest continues...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Night Prowling

During the day, Mission Station bustles with the chatter of busy people getting somewhere or going back. But at night it's a study in hushed inactivity, silence broken only by an approaching train or a lurking photographer...

I like the way footsteps sound on the platform when the rest of the town has tucked in to sleep. Like Arthur Symons once wrote,

The night was very still; above, below,
No sound, no breath, no change in anything;
Only, across the squares of damp lit street,
Shooting a mocking double from his feet,
With vague uncertain steps went to and fro
A solitary shadow wandering.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Things of Yesterday

South Pasadena people have a thing for old stuff. Our little town is brimming with historic architecture, towering heritage trees and decades-old sidewalks whose cracks we romantically think add character rather than present something as mundane as a tripping hazard. We love our real old-fashioned soda fountain and our main street filled with many locally owned stores. We have a 4th of July parade so wonderfully small town it might have made even Norman Rockwell roll his eyes. While much of Los Angeles dabbles in a bit of hipster retro -- South Pas revels in the truly vintage.

Even the limited new construction here often looks like a throwback to the 1920s -- antique-looking red brick or Craftsman-style facades -- and many homeowners search through the numerous San Gabriel Valley antique stores and architectural salvage places to fill new homes with the tile and light fixtures and switch plates and heating grilles of long ago.

It's fun to look at real estate listings from our flashy neighbors to the west. Brentwood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica West LA ... the descriptions of homes for sale there tend to mention things like vinyl dual paned windows and granite counters. Here? Even in a bad economy, people seek out old South Pas homes with 100 year old wood sash water glass windows and original kitchen tile. Personally, I'll always choose an antique gas stove like this one over a new Viking range...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Settings: Part 6

I'm can't resist playing my favorite game with this one...

Climb into your imaginary director's chair and tell me: if this door opened in a scene of a movie, what would you find inside?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Craftsman Challenge

Beautiful, unassuming Craftsman architecture: it's part of what makes South Pasadena and several other sections of the San Gabriel Valley so special. Here we are, smack dab in Arts and Crafts Central. Street after street, lined with perfect examples of the period -- homes nestled amid tree branches, bright river rock tucked into dark earth, porches relaxing into shadow, pitched rooftops bathed with light. Each one a study of sun and shade, with subtle details disappearing into foliage.

And every one almost impossible to capture with a camera! Those architects 100 years ago succeeded in their goal of designing homes that blend seamlessly into the landscape. It's like trying to photograph someone in a jungle who is splattered with mud and wearing camouflage pants.

So, after months of frustrated attempts, I pass the challenge on to my fellow San Gabriel Valley City Daily photobloggers ... show me your local Craftsmans! (I'm counting on you Ben, Petrea and Keith!)

UPDATED January 16, 2009: Click here for links to bloggers who have accepted the challenge!

UPDATED January 25, 2009: Bringing up my amended request from the comments below: I may have mentioned my San Gabriel Valley cohorts but I include ALL bloggers in this challenge. Show me what you got!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Connecting at Mission Station

She looked, he looked away. He looked, she looked away. The two giggled. The three swaggered...

I'd like to think that when they finally got on the train, they all sat together.

Friday, January 9, 2009

South Pas Up Close #3

South Pas is known for a variety of majestic heritage trees. They provide a beautiful fairy tale canopy above ... and some down-to-earth cracked sidewalks and root-clogged pipes below. The standing water here is caused by a root elevating part of a street near a drainage duct. I find a kind of happy symmetry in the fact that it reflects the leaves above. (Of course, I think all things-- even puddles -- look pretty under the glow of a streetlamp at night.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Night Rider

A night shot... a classic car... (Too bad it wasn't in front of the library. That would have been a Glimpses of South Pasadena trifecta!)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Suffer the little children

I've gone back into my Summer files for this shot. It was taken last August at one of South Pasadena's concerts in Garfield Park. This is childhood. Or, at least, this is what childhood should be.

Along with all of you, I have watched the news in horror as the innocent civilians have have been killed in Gaza. What I find most unbearable are the reports of how many children have perished in a conflict that shows no sign of letting up -- those beautiful lives forever snuffed out, another generation shattered by violence. I am stunned with grief in what has become an all too familiar feeling: helplessness and resignation to the inevitability of more bloodshed, more suffering, and more sorrow caused by politics, borders, ethnic mistrust, religious zealotry and the killing machines of war. As a humanist, I sigh. As a mother, I weep.

We mothers of all political stripes want a better future for our kids. As we push those screaming newborns out of our own bodies and into the uncertain world, each one of us hopes for a brighter, more peaceful planet. Whether we pray to one of three interpretations of the god of Abraham, or to the son of that god; whether we meditate to the lessons of the Buddha or simply marvel at the wonders of the known natural world, we mothers have a spectacular connection to life. We share in its creation in a very personal way -- our bodies host it and create food for it, we spend years loving and scolding and rocking and snuggling it to maturity. We mothers are dedicating to nurturing lives. Perhaps that is why, for most of us, reckless killing is intolerable. The term "collateral damage" can never begin to adequately describe to a mother -- any mother -- the death of an innocent child.

With this in mind, I thought I would share a few links to charities whose work helps suffering children in areas of conflict all over the world. I feel fortunate to live in a community as beautiful, safe and happy as South Pasadena. Here are some organizations trying to make the whole planet into a more kid-friendly place. As you look toward your 2009 budget for charitable donations, please consider these groups:

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
Coordinating response by national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, the ICRC is an independent, neutral organization offering humanitarian protection, aid and assistance for victims of war and other armed violence. With headquarters in Geneva, the ICRC operates in 80 countries. As stated on the ICRC website, it has a "permanent mandate under international law to take impartial action for prisoners, the wounded and sick, and civilians affected by conflict." Click here for an up to date report of the ICRC's efforts to assist in Gaza as well as Southern Israel.

Seeds of Peace
Founded in 1993 by journalist John Wallach, this organization promotes personal relationships critical to peacemaking and conflict resolution. Beginning with a camp in Maine for teenagers and continuing through programs all over the world, Seeds educates young people to develop empathy, respect, confidence and the skills of negotiation -- allowing them to see the human face of their enemy. Focusing on Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian teenagers, Seeds also includes young leaders from South Asia, Cyprus and the Balkans.

Room to Read
Founder John Wood left his cushy job at Microsoft after a trip to Nepal opened his eyes to the shocking lack of educational resources for the children there. Room to Read partners with local communities throughout the developing world to build libraries, create local language children's books, build schools and computer labs and provide education to girls in areas where schooling is rarely an option for them.

Voted as a best website of 2008 by Time magazine, Kiva is worthy of the recognition. While it is not specifically aimed at helping children, I can think of no better way to assist poor families than to lend them the funds to start their own businesses. Kiva allows you to lend money to a specific small entrepreneur in the developing world to help lift that person out of poverty. They repay the money ... and you get to lend it to someone else. Sound like a pipe dream? Kiva has become one of the hippest names in microfinance. Check out what Forbes had to say.

I know we can't solve the problems of the world in a generation. But little by little, maybe we can make sure our children's generation has less work to do. Feel free to leave links to your favorite charities in the comments below.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hi-Life Hamburgers

There seem to be two distinct camps when it comes to iconic South Pas eatery Hi-Life Hamburgers: those who say something like, "Is that the place on Fair Oaks near the middle school? What's the big deal? It's a burger joint like any other, right?" And those who equate Hi-Life with every happy memory from childhood wrapped around the very heart of the small town American dream and worthy of placement on the historic register. Even those who don't rave about Hi-Life food will raise hackles at the idea of not having it as a dining option. For locals, Hi-Life is a vital part of the Southern California -- kinda like the Lakers, the Hollywood sign and the Santa Monica pier. (Only better.)

It certainly is a slice out of the past. The red and white tile inside is part fifties diner/part psychedelic carnival. It's real-deal retro, not orchestrated. Where else can you get Orange Bang and Cherry Fanta? You can ask for "A suicide" and receive a wicked combination of every soft drink, swirling in icy goodness, enough to please your inner 8th grader. Oh, and you'll see plenty of actual 8th graders in the afternoon-- the Middle School is nearby. Later, you might find some glassy-eyed teens saying something along the lines of, "Hi-life... get it, dude?" like characters out of a Kevin Smith movie.

The burgers are delish -- huge, savory, drippy -- and the breakfasts are like the ones you remember from Grandma's house -- lots of crispy bacon and butter. The fries are truly outstanding -- that perfect blend of crunch on the outside, steam on the inside. (A small is more than enough to share.) And if you talk to any Hi-Life fan about there being better chili cheese fries anywhere on planet earth, be prepared for a fight. Heck, the place even got a shout-out in a rap song. (Eat Street, by People Under the Stairs.)

Oh, there are those who don't get it. Bottom line: if when you think of cheeseburgers you think of medium rare ostrich with gorgonzola cheese and a side of chipotle-infused sweet potato fries ... that sounds great. Just don't go to Hi-Life. But if you want a piece of locally-owned greasy goodness in a setting that would give Quentin Tarantino inspiration to write another screenplay, go to Hi-Life. (Bring cash -- no credit cards accepted.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Variations on a Theme...

South Pasadena acts as muse to many visual artists. Remember this Rialto Visions Plein Air Paint Out from back in October? It was an inspiration to see so many painters lining the streets of our fair city, rendering The Rialto in various styles and pigments. I was so inspired, I had to take pictures of them.

But behind the scenes, tucked away in her South Pasadena studio, artist Leslie Saeta was using a palette knife to create her own versions of various city locations. And there was a twist -- she was basing several of the works on my photos from right here on GOSP. When she initially wrote to me to ask permission, I was thrilled that my images inspired someone else. I've always loved the spirit of artistic collaboration. It fueled the likes of Clifford Odets and the Group Theatre, films by Robert Altman, improvisational comedy venues like The Groundlings and Second City, not to mention every garage band's cover of Yesterday.

Now that I've seen Leslie's completed paintings, I'm not only thrilled but honored. This is how I would paint South Pas if I were an artist. You can see the works right here. They are based on my images originally posted here and here.

Take a few minutes to stop by Leslie's new daily painting blog as well as her professional website. (And for those of you who are wondering -- yes, Leslie IS the former first lady of South Pasadena -- she is happily married to David Saeta, former mayor and City Councilman.) Now, Leslie just needs to let me photograph her while she is painting one of my photographs ... MC Escher would approve.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


With all the unrest in the world today, I rejoice in presenting a simple shot of a lazy winter sky at dusk, a telephone wire, a row of dark and silent little houses, silhouettes of a few big and fluffy trees, and the unmistakable optimism of white picket fences...

Things are quiet around here -- the last of the Rose Bowl visitors have packed up and headed to the airport. Traffic on Fair Oaks is getting back to normal. Christmas trees are being taken down, leaving behind those tragic trails of dried needles. Sweaters are being returned. Resolutions are being written. Tomorrow, the new year officially kicks in.

Where's that plate of cookies? I'm wringing every last festive drop out of the holiday season.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Caption this photo... (#4)

This one is a toughie. Okay ... how about:

"Goldilocks," he said with a sigh, "why didn't you return any of my calls?"

(Anyone else want to take a crack at captioning this photo?)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Everyday Art...

I am all for museums and masterpieces, and I appreciate the impressive works donated to public spaces by the luminaries whose names grace the pages of Art in America. But I also appreciate unsung creators of public art like this whimsical palm tree mural on the wall behind the G&M Food Mart and gas station. What could have been just another beige building is, instead, a happy canvas. Isn't it fun?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Best of 2008

It's not only the start of a brand new year ... it's also Theme Day for participating City Daily Photo bloggers. This month's theme is the rather daunting "Best Photograph of 2008." (No pressure or anything...)

I have no idea which Glimpses of South Pasadena photo is my best. It's too hard for me to be objective -- and photography is such a subjective art, anyway. What I can say is that this particular photograph is my favorite. (I first posted it here.) I'll never forget the odd but wonderful feeling I had when, while having coffee and ice cream with my family at Busters, I glanced at the large window and saw my darling little 3 year old girl's reflection blending with the face of the beautiful, thoughtful young woman behind the glass. It was like a time slippage, a peek at my little girl's future self, a reminder of how quickly things change and children grow up, a moment of transition so elegantly presented. I grabbed my camera and took a shot right as my daughter moved and the entire vision disappeared. I never expected the image to come out resembling anything close to the experience of the moment. Oh, the joy of happy accidents!

So there you have it... my best of 2008 represented in two hopeful faces of our future generations. Isn't that what new years are all about, anyway?

Take time to explore the remarkable collection of favorite 2008 photographs from talented bloggers all over the world.