Sunday, May 31, 2009

Girls of Summer

Crack! Such a hopeful sound bounced off the afternoon quiet. Almost simultaneously there was an expectant swell of cheers and a few happy cries of wooooohooooo! And then, as she raced around third base, a chorus of "Run, Lily, Run! Run, Lily, Run! Run, Lily, Run!"

And Lily ran. (All the way home.)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Black Tie

A little blurry, perhaps. But then again, isn't that the way we all remember prom night?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Apartments in Blue

It's easy to get caught up in the beauty of the city's historic homes, but tucked among them are a number of charming apartment buildings, many built in the 1950s and 60s. As of 2007, about 56% of South Pas residents were renters. (Who knows how much this number may have risen due to the housing crisis.) While I am grateful to own my home, and I appreciate the fact that I can put down deep roots, there is something to be said for the nomadic joy of being the rest of a lease and a U-haul away from packing up and moving.

Remember your first apartment? For me, it was a chalet-style 8-plex near my university campus. The metal stairs rattled and the front rooms barely got any light but in my mind it was my own little niche in the universe -- complete with a futon, a Klimt poster and a burgeoning wooden bookcase. When I moved to Los Angeles a few years later, I rented a fabulous old 1920s walk-up in Hollywood a few doors down from Chaplin's first studio and a block away from the strip club Motley Crue made famous in Girls Girls Girls.

While houses allow a certain my-home-is-my-castle distance, apartments insist on a sense of community. Shared walls, shared laundry rooms, shared conversations at complex pool parties. Just think, without apartments, there would have been no Tales of the City. And who knows what tales could be told about this little city? While I was taking the picture above, I heard a snippet of a conversation coming from somewhere nearby:

"I think I might really love him," she said, "but there's that thing with the dog..."

(I guess I could have kept listening, but nobody wants to be a nosy neighbor.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Art Director...

The idea: a gritty monochrome study of this corner of the South Pasadena Post Office -- an image to symbolize our crowded yet compartmentalized lives in the modern age.

Yeah, well, my little girl had other ideas: "I'm going to race to the end of that sad room and start dancing."

I like her concept much better.

People always say to me
"What do you think you'd like to be
When you grow up?"
And I say "Why,
I think I'd like to be the sky
Or be a plane or train or mouse
Or maybe a haunted house
Or something furry, rough and wild ...
Or maybe I will stay a child."

--Karla Kuskin

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Night Owls

I couldn't resist taking a picture of this house. It lit up an otherwise dark street like a big night light.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

When I was a freshman in high school back in Austin, Texas, I fell madly in love with the boy who sat behind me in my English class. His name was Tim. He had dark brown hair that fell across his forehead and dark blue eyes that sparkled every time I turned around to tell him to stop kicking my chair. He wore a beat-up, 40s-era bomber jacket and could make archaic slang words like "swell" sound effortlessly new. If someone insulted him -- you know, with one of those classic high school put-downs that usually involved unspeakable acts with farm animals or insinuations about inbreeding -- Tim would pause, slowly nod his head, smile and say, "oh yeah?" He was ridiculously handsome, even at 15, and managed to carry it off with a goodhearted sheepishness that made teachers look the other way when he ambled into class late -- and convinced me (to the depths of my very soul!) that he was the most exceptional creature on planet earth and if I lived to be a hundred I'd never be able to express the extent of my feelings for him.

Instead, I played it cool. We talked about Shakespeare and The Clash when we bumped into each other at our lockers. I tried not to stutter when we split a beer together at a party -- the one where he confessed that he believed in fate and that was why he didn't worry about things. I told him that I thought fate needed a good kick in the ass most of the time. He laughed and said it was more fun to go with the flow than to fight.

In fact, the only time I ever saw Tim get into a fight was when one of the football players picked on a nerdy drama kid at an outdoor concert in the park. I wish I could say Tim pummelled the bully in a scene worthy of Clint Eastwood. It wasn't quite like that. But after an inelegant scuffle of a few thudding punches, Tim walked away with the grace of a triumphant samurai.

Tim and I never became real sweethearts, but we remained good friends throughout high school. Whenever my boyfriend broke my heart, Tim let me cry on his shoulder and flirted with me just enough to make my boyfriend jealous. At graduation, Tim was the first person I hugged. Tim was also the last person I ever expected to tell me he was joining the Marines.

"I'll see the world and do some good," he said. And then he laughed and said, "Or knowing me, maybe I'll just get in all kinds of trouble."

He was killed the following year in the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. He was 19.

It's Memorial Day here in the United States. A time for most people to sleep late and linger over coffee before applying sunscreen, stocking the cooler and tossing the steaks on the grill. Those are all good things. In fact, they're the kind of good things that most of the members of our armed forces think about when they're stationed around the planet seeing the world, doing some good and, too often, getting in all kinds of trouble.

Lets take a moment to remember the ones who never made it home.

In remembrance of Timothy McMahon, 1964-1983

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Jam tomorrow... (Or at least coming soon)

Reflections in a window give the illusion of another world within the frame ... and actually, a new dimension is coming to this empty space on Mission Street. I'll give you a hint with this verse from Through the Looking Glass:

A loaf of bread, the Walrus said,
Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed --
Now if you're ready, Oysters, dear,
We can begin to feed!

That's right, South Pas will soon have a new bakery. (O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Mayberry Nouveau

Fashions change, but things never really change. I'll wager those grocery bags have all the ingredients for an apple pie.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Settings: Part 11

I've noticed several larger-than-usual film crews around town in the last few days ... which, of course, got me thinking about my favorite game. If this were the setting of a scene in a film, what would happen here? No need to be quiet on this set. Let's have some action!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Drive-thru Dream Car

I spotted this beauty in line at the McDonald's drive-thru. See? People don't just park vintage cars around town, they actually drive them!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Good Night, Dog

This is a shot taken around midnight in my garden, with the camera pointed at the back door. What you might not notice is the shadowy figure in the lower right: Misty, my 9 year old Rottweiler-mix rescue doggie.

Misty and her sister Molly are in many of my pictures. Sometimes they ham it up for the camera. Sometimes they acquiesce to my silly need to photograph them in all matter of undignified positions -- belly up napping or wearing one of my daughter's doll hats. Sometimes they sneak into a shot, invariably making it better.

Dogs do that to you. They sneak up on your life and invariably make it better.

My sister Judy lost her beloved dog Summer yesterday. Dog lovers know there are no words to adequately express sympathy for the loss of a furry best friend. When Elizabeth Barrett Browning lost her own dog, she wrote a line that has always summed it up for me:

"His ears were often the first thing to catch my tears."

Why do pets live so few years and how can they manage to pack so much love and joy into such a short period of time? Like Judy said today, if there is a heaven, then it must be filled with dogs.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Chefs in a Row

El Centro really should have a sign that says Chef's Crossing. I see a lot of cooking students crossing the street on the way to daily patisserie practice at the South Pasadena classroom of Southern California School of Culinary Arts. I believe the building is an adjunct to the main campus in Pasadena. The school is one of the few in the country offering the world famous Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Program. (I wonder if they need any guest tasters?)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Too much fun for one day...

The South Pasadena Fun Fair continues today. My family spent most of the afternoon there yesterday -- along with quite a few friends and neighbors. I knew the fair would have fun rides and kid's games, great food and loud music. But what I didn't expect was the treasure trove of books available at the used book sale. For $8 I scored a 1967 hardbound anthology of 45 great modern plays of the first part of the 20th Century, a beautiful 1920s edition of Dumas' The Queen's Necklace, a first edition of Daniel Dennett's Consciousness Explained and a quantum physics reference. (And I only looked through a few stacks...)

Fun for everyone -- from daredevils to bookworms. For more images, take a look at my overflow blog.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Come to the Fair...

This whimsical train chug-chug-chugged along Mission Street during the recent Arts and Crafts Fair. For even more madcap rides and games, just head out today and tomorrow to the 12th annual South Pasadena Fun Fair at the School District parking lot between Mission and El Centro. Hosted by South Pasadena's three elementary schools, the event aims to raise much-needed cash during a state education budget crisis. (Recent state cuts slashed around $1.8 million from the 2009-10 budget projections.)

Don't assume you have to be in elementary school to enjoy the activities. Today I saw crews setting up a Ferris wheel worthy of inducing vertigo in even the hardiest adult. Expect even more huge rides, food booths, balloons, confetti eggs, arts and crafts, silly string, baked goods, a used book sale and a vast array of old fashioned games and prizes. (This time, I swear I'm going to win a stuffed panda.)

Friday, May 15, 2009


The stained glass of Holy Family Catholic Church is magnificent, to be sure. I always slow down and take it in when driving by on a late night milk run. But just look at that velvety sky full of stars!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Do you think the people who brought their horses to this watering trough in the early 1900s could have grasped the concept of Blackberries and cell phones? Like so much of South Pasadena, this historical spot has withstood the tests of time -- and found new use in the modern age.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Craftsman Challenge: Round 5 (Sublime to Ridiculous!)

This has to be my favorite front yard in South Pasadena. I wonder... are contemporary Druids living here? I can think of no better image to revisit my beloved Craftsman Challenge. Here's a review to bring new readers up to speed:

The idea began with my complaint about how it's almost impossible to use a camera to capture the true beauty of a Craftsman home. My blogging pals stepped up to the plate to prove me wrong...

Petrea added her touch here and followed up here, Ben at The Sky is Big in Pasadena joined the fun here, Mister Earl came alonghere and here and started getting silly here, Sarah Jane over at Hatching a Patch jumped in with this , GOSP reader Barbra joined in with this, Keith at Gem City Images added to the collection with this great shot just as Elaine, our Northern California buddy in Willits added this, and fellow San Gabriel Valley blogger Pasadena Adjacent added my favorite hilarious addition to the Challenge canon with this beautifully irreverent (and well-spotted) example of Craftsman architecture.

And a little bit like the architecture itself, my challenge endures! I'm happy to say, yet another contender steps into the ring for a chance at the title of Craftsman Smackdown queen. This is the perfect opportunity for me to introduce a new Los Angeles-area blog, A Photographic Journey, by GOSP reader (and photographer-extraordinaire) The Chieftess. Take a look at her masterful shots of Craftsman homes, and be sure to check out her other photographs. I think you will enjoy the thoughtful, elegant and just plain beautiful images from around Southern California. Welcome to Blogland, Chieftess!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

View from the Post Office

The South Pasadena Post Office exists in large part because of the New Deal programs instituted by FDR in the 1930s. Federal Relief Agencies put many South Pasadenans to work on projects ranging from building the Arroyo Seco control channel to adding terraces and walkways to Eddie Park. In fact, during this decade, most stores and businesses in South Pas hung up National Relief Administration Blue Eagle placards with the slogan, "We Do Our Part."

Since the city's incorporation, the post office bounced around from temporary place to place. It operated for a while out of a hotel, for a few years out of the Alexander Building. At one point it was a branch of the post office in Los Angeles and at another point it belonged to Pasadena. But in 1936 -- after some bickering with the federal government on architectural design standards -- South Pasadena finally got its very own post office building: the grand white structure still in operation today at the corner of Fremont and El Centro.

And who says big government programs can't work well! Not only did the city get a large, functional building, but it got beautiful art to adorn it. The Treasury Relief Art Project commissioned artist and former postal clerk John Law Walker to paint the mural in the new post office lobby. The scene represents a Concord mail coach -- a subject familiar to the brand new South Pasadena postmaster, George Hugh Banning. He had written all about the mail vehicle in his book Six Horses.

It gives me great inspiration to buy stamps here and think about how so much utility and beauty came from using governmental ingenuity as well as the talent and labor of the citizenry to demolish the chains of the Great Depression. We could learn a lot from our recent past.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Pull into San Pascual Stables and you'll see this beautifully decaying relic from our region's past. Sure, we've progressed a bit from horses and carriages but sometimes California still feels like the wild, wild west. This rusty wagon is a great reminder.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Red, White and Green

Maybe I should change the title of my blog to Glimpses of South Pasadena Vintage Cars...

I didn't have a good shot for commemorating Mother's Day, but this picture is appropriate for me since my daughter tends to tell people, "My mommy takes lots and lots and lots of pictures for her blog. But she REALLY likes pictures of funny old cars!" (Well, I do.)

Happy, happy day to all of you moms out there. (And happy old car for the rest of you!)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Friday, May 8, 2009

Settings: Part 10

Isn't this a great sign? I noticed it about a month ago when I walked across the baseball field at Orange Grove Park. Apparently the local Lucks are big supporters of South Pas little league. (Talk about a home field advantage!)

Which reminds me of one of my favorite games. Lets shake things up a bit this time: instead of a setting, if this were the TITLE of a movie, what would it be about? Go ahead, my ever-creative readers. Knock one out of the park...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Shadow Puppet

A tree growing by a curb is just a tree growing by a curb ... unless you look at it from a different perspective. I am amazed by the things I notice by simply looking down. My photography teacher in high school used to tell me that if I was uninspired by a subject, just examine the shadow. I think he was right. (Come to think of it, his advice seems like a pretty decent life strategy.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Time Machine

"Can't repeat the past?" cried Gatsby incredulously. "Why, of course you can."

(Well, maybe not everything. But certainly old cars in South Pasadena.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tone Poem...

Maybe it's the spartan tree, or the odd lamp, or the dark window and all those shadows ... but this lovely and noticeably hip nocturnal setting on Mission Street reminded me of a rather bleak passage from Allen Ginsberg's Howl. Either I'm incredibly astute, or I need to get more sleep and stop staying up so late taking pictures.

"angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz..."

Yeah, I know it's just a commercial building closed for the evening. Then again, poetry lurks in unexpected places.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Happy Dance

My daughter has an adorable habit of spontaneous dancing. Whenever she hears music -- any music -- she will usually stop what she's doing and start to groove. (She's been known to draw a crowd in malls and at the Farmer's Market.) Here, we were walking around the little park at the bottom of Via del Rey. We heard the Beatles filtering out of a nearby open window . My girl took it as an opportunity to bust a few moves.

Parents marvel at how quickly our children grow and change. One moment the baby starts crawling --you blink, and suddenly she's off twirling around in the back yard. How does it happen so fast? Childhood's score offers no pause, no fermata to let the recent notes fully resonate. I suppose that's part of the beauty of its melody. It's fast-paced and fanciful.

Today is my sweet girl's fourth birthday. I can think of no better wish for her future than this: that she'll always listen for the music ... and take the time to dance.

Happy birthday, my quick-stepping little sweet pea!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Everyday Bliss

I couldn't help but smile (and steal a shot from behind a pole) when I saw this happy little family waiting for the train at Mission Station. Maybe it was something special about the rattle, or the accompanying beatbox vocal improv of the dad, or the beatific grace radiating from the mother's lovely face, but that baby was giggling loudly enough to be heard across the platform.

Sometimes the mundane feels truly profound.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Jewels in the Night

Remember these windows? They're sweet, respectable and downright demure during the day ... but just look at how wildly they glam it up at night.

There's a metaphor here somewhere.

Maybe Browning had it figured out when she wrote,

"Yes," I answered you last night;
"No," this morning, sir, I say:
Colours seen by candlelight
Will not look the same by day.

Or maybe it's just fun to find the drama in things. (Even stained glass windows.)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Flowers and a Fast Car

Need a shot of gleeful optimism during a dreary news cycle? Check out this mood elevator: a classic sports car parked next to a ridiculously pink sloping lawn. There's no way swine flu or a bad economy could possibly get close to this scene without transforming into disco butterflies and flying off into the sunset.

My old car series always surprises me.