Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Routine Stop

Just another one of South Pasadena's cool old cars...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Lunar Module?

No, aliens have not landed in South Pas -- although these marvelous old Airstream trailers have always reminded me of props out of a 1950s Twilight Zone episode. And just look at how this one shimmers in the evening light...

On second thought, maybe aliens have landed. Leave rational explanations for the rest of the year. It's officially summertime now.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Missing but Not Forgotten

When I started Glimpses of South Pasadena almost a year ago, I thought of it as a window into my own little town. Instead, it has been a view to the entire world.

As part of a planet-wide community of City Daily Photobloggers, I've had the privilege of being part of a huge neighborhood that spans not just city blocks but entire oceans and continents. This experience has been invaluable to me as a human being. It has shown me time and again that people may be separated by boundaries and governments, we might express ourselves in different languages or flavor our foods with different spices but on a basic level we are alike. We want the same things: freedom, creative expression, the opportunity to do good work, a safe place to live, and happiness for those we love.

One of my fellow bloggers has been missing in Iran since June 17th. He is believed to be in prison after taking part in the post-election protests. His photographs of Tehran in the days immediately following the election offered the world a view of the madness -- one that Western journalists were banned from capturing. His bravery in the face of such grave danger has been an inspiration.

Today, a number of his friends across the blogosphere dedicate our posts to him and all Iranians who bravely struggle for self-determination. We send out our hopes and prayers for a safe return -- and for better days ahead. Let the simple sidewalk chalk drawing in the above photograph show how connected we are to the rest of the world. We're thinking of you here in Southern California. We care.

Click here to view thumbnails for all participants

Click here to sign the Avaaz petition to the Organization of Islamic Conference, the Non-Aligned Movement and all UN member states as a global outcry to stop the Iran crackdown. (Thanks Hilda at My Manila and Petrea at Pasadena Daily Photo for the Avaaz link.)

UPDATE: 8:00pm It has been confirmed: AMIR WAS RELEASED TODAY AND IS HOME SAFE! Thanks to Green at Portland Daily Photo for confirming the happy news. And thanks to the dozens and dozens of bloggers around the world who participated today. May there be more happy stories from Iran. And a happy future for all people there.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Communication from a fence? Sure, why not? I enjoy making the world my oracle.

Remember the way the freeway signs gave advice to Steve Martin in the film LA Stories? Wisdom is everywhere if you look for it. (With all the vanity license plates and graffiti in Los Angeles, driving the freeway can be a little like throwing the I Ching!) My favorite message-in-the-environment was on a wall I used to pass by on Hollywood Blvd back in the 80s. Someone had spraypainted "Agnes Moorehead is God" in bright red across the cinder blocks. I always thought it made about as much sense as anything else.

But this? Someone went to a lot of trouble to craft this message with yellow string into the chain link fence surrounding the empty lot at Mission and Fremont. Seriously, the string was tied down well enough to withstand the Santa Ana winds. Does this artist jones for the Christmas trees found in this lot in December? Perhaps the Halloween pumpkins? Is this a message about the bad economy? Iran? Is it a jilted lover's veiled threat to an ex-sweetheart? Hipster code giving directions to a rave? (Maybe these two are involved...)

Actually, it's lyrics to a UK Alt-rock band Placebo's song of the same name. It's a cool song, but an odd choice to knit into a fence. Who knows, maybe the next day this string tagger woke up, thought about it and muttered with incredulity, "Where is my mind?"

Friday, June 26, 2009


Every community has its icons -- structures that seem to capture the heart and soul of the place, and of the era. This quaint, old fashioned water tower seems to personify South Pasadena's Mayberry reputation even better than the quaint, old fashioned soda fountain or all the quaint, old fashioned houses. It perches on a hillside just like so many other water towers on hillsides in so many other small towns in America. It's a symbol most people in our culture can relate to even though it is belongs to my city.

Icons are funny like that. Everyone recognizes them even though they exist in a world that the rest of us can never really inhabit. And when an icon disappears -- it's as if there is a rift in the ordinary fabric of things. Like this week, for example. In the space of a few days the world lost three icons of the 20th Century. Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson all died within hours of each other. No, I didn't know any of them. And I wouldn't even necessarily call myself a fan of any of them. But they were such a part of my cultural landscape -- such familiar touchstones of my coming of age, my history -- that without them, I feel a little disoriented. As writer Susan Orlean said on Twitter today, without them the world feels a little less familiar now.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Twilight time is so peaceful along South Pasadena streets. You might see someone jogging, or walking a dog. You might hear faint music from an open window or passionate song from a mockingbird perched in a nearby palm. It's hard to believe there is so much turmoil in the streets half a world away.

DREAMS in the dusk,
Only dreams closing the day
And with the day's close going back
To the gray things, the dark things,
The far, deep things of dreamland.

Dreams, only dreams in the dusk,
Only the old remembered pictures
Of lost days when the day's loss
Wrote in tears the heart's loss.

Tears and loss and broken dreams
May find your heart at dusk.

--Carl Sandburg

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Nature's Paintbrush

South Pasadena is one of the many communities spread out under the large blanket of Los Angeles sky. Most people in the rest of the world think this area's skysapes offer little more than thick smog and bright sunshine -- yeah, we have a lot of those things. But we also have a few whorling, glorious clouds to dazzle when we least expect them.

I snapped this picture after June Gloom drizzled the other day. I was looking southwest on Mission toward the Highland Park section of Los Angeles -- the home of artist (and beloved member of my family) Shanna Galloway. For extraordinary local sky photographs, check out Shanna's delightful new blog VIEW. (You can also visit Shanna's website to see beautiful dry pigment and pastel works on paper inspired by these skies.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Settings: Part 12

Some shots require a little exposition! You guys know the drill...

It's time to play my favorite armchair moviemaker game. If this were the setting of a scene in a film, what would happen here?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cathedral Oak Monument

You might not notice this South Pasadena Cultural Landmark unless you scrutinize the brush on the south side of Arroyo Drive. The Cathedral Oak Monument marks the exact spot where the first Easter services were held in California back in 1770. Legend says that a priest named Father Crespi gathered worshipers under the branches of a mighty oak that grew here. The Oneonta Park Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution marked the oak with a plaque in 1932.

Alas, by 1952 the tree had fallen. The same DAR chapter placed this simple monument in memoriam of the historic tree. (But I think the other trees to the left clearly show that X marks the spot...)

And while Father Crespi might not have been the type to celebrate it -- happy Fathers Day to all of the dads out there! YOU guys deserve a monument!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Window Covering

They say that every house has a story to tell, right? This curious little 1920s home always tickles my imagination when I see it. I mean really, now... what's with all the windows? In lieu of any actual historical research, I've come up with some interesting possible explanations:

Maybe the original designer had a brother in the window business...

Perhaps an art collector lost everything in San Francisco's devastating fire and decided to move South to live somewhere with little wall space and great views...

In the roaring 20s, exhibitionism was all the rage -- its influence was felt even in architecture!


Well then, don't get me started on my latest fantasy. The one about a devoted husband and the wife with a brain tumor causing gradual blindness. "Just look at all the windows I've given you, darling!" He might have said, "Now you'll never be without light!"

(It's easy to get carried away by the romance of South Pasadena's older homes.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Rite Aid Abstract

The Rite Aid drugstore on Fair Oaks is just like every other Rite Aid drugstore in Southern California ... with the exception of the weird wooden gazebo out front. It's unexpected, rather ponderous and clearly a fern bar-inspired design leftover from the 1970s. By day you might walk right past it.

But doesn't it make a cool study at night?

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I've noticed a lot of South Pas neighbors flinging open windows, shaking out rugs and sweeping off porches. Something about the start of summer seems to prompt people to finally get around to spring cleaning.

Which, of course, reminds me of a poem... This simple one by 19th century poet/housewife Ella Wheeler Wilcox. (No, it's not Neruda. But, then again, I doubt Neruda did much vacuuming...)

This is the place that I love the best,
A little brown house, like a ground-bird's nest,
Hid among grasses, and vines, and trees,
Summer retreat of the birds and bees.

The tenderest light that ever was seen
Sifts through the vine-made window screen--
Sifts and quivers, and flits and falls
On home-made carpets and gray-hung walls.

All through June the west wind free
The breath of clover brings to me.
All through the languid July day
I catch the scent of new-mown hay.

The morning-glories and scarlet vine
Over the doorway twist and twine;
And every day, when the house is still,
The humming-bird comes to the window-sill.

In the cunningest chamber under the sun
I sink to sleep when the day is done;
And am waked at morn, in my snow-white bed,
By a singing bird on the roof o'erhead.

Better than treasures brought from Rome,
Are the living pictures I see at home--
My aged father, with frosted hair,
And mother's face, like a painting rare.

Far from the city's dust and heat,
I get but sounds and odors sweet.
Who can wonder I love to stay,
Week after week, here hidden away,
In this sly nook that I love the best--
This little brown house like a ground-bird's nest?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On a Roll

If you research Seasonal Affective Disorder, you won't find any reference to kicking up your heels or riding a unicycle as appropriate coping mechanisms to ward off sunlight-deprived depression. Well, those stick-in-the-mud Mayo Clinic researchers should just come to South Pas. Forget full-spectrum light bulbs and Prozac ... we have novel ways of dealing with the June Gloom blues. This woman certainly had the right idea outside the library yesterday. And nearby? Jugglers!

Whatever works.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Everything is (finally) Illuminated

Don't worry. I'm not going to make a series out of random poles in the ground. But I just had to show that even dirt looks pretty ... when the sun is out! Just look at those shadows! That contrast! The golden gleam reflecting off the leaves in the enormous refuse pile!

Okay, so I got carried away. South Pas had a reprieve from the recent bleak weather and it made me a little bit loopy.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Grasping at (yellow) straws...

Have the sun's rays become frozen behind a fence in this South Pas alleyway? Whatever they are, the yellow posts provided a bit of unexpected cheer on yet another gloomy, overcast day.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

Keeping Warm

June Gloom has morphed into June Schizophrenia. It's supposed to be summertime -- sunny, dazzling Southern California summertime, the kind of golden season immortalized in beach movies and beloved by the makers of sunscreen. Instead, we have an abbreviated version of winter. Don't believe me? Yesterday it was in the low 60s with misty rain for most of the day.

I'm not sure but I think this weird weather is making folks a little bit squirrelly. Just take a look at this person wearing winter gear, kicking up heels among the roses like some kind of misplaced dancing ninja. Is it July yet?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Heads, we win...


I know art is subjective, and lawn art in particular obeys its own unruly rules, and I'm not saying this isn't pretty or anything...

...but didn't the ancient Romans put the heads of their enemies on fence spikes as a sign of warning?

Maybe I'm overanalyzing.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Little Oasis

The Arroyo Seco watershed is one of Southern California's treasures. (I wrote about it at length back in February.)Much more than a concrete stream bed, the Arroyo is a 46.7 square mile corridor of natural space that links the San Gabriel Mountains to the Los Angeles River. South Pas claims much of the Lower Arroyo -- including this delightful little pocket of wild beauty which, on most days, is home to a couple of well-fed ducks.

Read more about the Arroyo Seco here and here. And make sure to do your part to protect this and other watersheds by following the advice here.

Age Appropriate...

Francis Bacon once said: "Old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read."

(And old houses are best to photograph.)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Blue Vista

I just had to get a rainy day shot looking down from Monterey Hills. If you click on the picture and enlarge it, be sure to notice Pasadena's Colorado Street Bridge and the Richard H. Chambers U.S. Court of Appeals Building.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Let there be new flowering...

The roses weren't the only thing in bloom at Garfield Park yesterday. I couldn't resist sneaking a few snaps of this newlywed couple -- they were barely past "I do" and glowing with enough happiness to light up the entire San Gabriel Valley.

Don't you just love a June wedding?

Yesterday was the 65th anniversary of the allied forces D-Day invasion of Normandy. I had been feeling introspective, thinking about wars and about time passing, about people lost and people trying to save. Then, I stumbled upon a joyful wedding party traipsing around a park still muddy from the recent rain. Springtime gives all of us permission to be optimistic.

I like the way Lucille Clifton expressed it best:

let there be new flowering
in the fields let the fields
turn mellow for the men
let the men keep tender
through the time let the time
be wrested from the war
let the war be won
let love be
at the end

Saturday, June 6, 2009

In a Weather Vein...

With all the recent gray skies, here's a reminder of what Southern California usually looks like. It rained yesterday. June Gloom had a full-on hissy fit -- dropping temperatures, drenching streets and generating a lot of "what's with the weird weather" conversations around town. (I laughed when a woman in line at Fair Oaks Pharmacy said, "I don't need this. My boyfriend is unpredictable enough.")

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Think the greater Los Angeles area is always sunny? Not this time of year. Welcome to what locals call "June Gloom" -- a few weeks of drearily grey weather worthy of a moody refrain by a Seattle grunge band.

It will all boil off soon in the approaching summer heat but for now... sigh. (At least the jacarandas are blooming!)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Purple Prose...

It's June now, and that means the jacaranda trees have started showing off. Jacarandas are the big, flashy divas of early summer. It's hard to adequately describe a jacaranda to someone who has never experienced the tree's particular flourish, but I'll try...

Imagine if you hosted an afternoon tea party in June: your guests would trickle in wearing cheerful warm weather clothes -- some chinos, a few floral sundresses in delicate spring colors. Then, perhaps a little late, that woman would show up. You know. The loud one in the full-length purple organza ball gown.

That's a jacaranda tree.

These scene-stealers have only just begun to bloom. You can find them in little pockets all over Los Angeles -- with great swaths of them along Marengo here in South Pas and lining Del Mar in Pasadena. In a few weeks, they'll have dropped all petals in messy swirls of violet rain. (You know how divas are. Always with the drama!)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Small Wonders

Pulitzer prizewinner and former poet laureate Ted Kooser once wrote these lines:

If you can awaken
inside the familiar
and discover it strange,
you need never leave home.

He spoke about these words before an overflowing crowd at the Library of Congress a few years ago. "This four-line poem is a kind of credo for me," he said. "In short, we have beauty all about us, if we take the time to pay attention to it. Reinhold Marxhausen knew about paying attention; George Ault knew it. Pablo Neruda wrote dozens of remarkable poems about common things. Thousands of poets and painters have learned to pay attention like this. We honor the ordinary by giving it our attention. We enshrine the ordinary in our art. Is there anything really ordinary, I wonder?"

I've been thinking a lot about paying attention to the beauty of commonplace things. It's easy to blissfully sigh at a gorgeous bit of architecture or a breathtaking view. But it takes a little more than casual observation to notice everyday loveliness --the sweet shadow and texture of something mundane.

Like a trash dumpster surrounded on three sides by concrete walls.

Maybe I'm crazy -- but there, in a wash of afternoon light, I think it's just beautiful.

Monday, June 1, 2009

No great feat ... just great feet

It's the first of the month -- and that means Theme Day for participating City Daily Photo bloggers. Today's theme? Feet!

Yes, feet. (Foot fetishists of the world, rejoice! Today you have a veritable treasure trove over at the CDP website...)

Regular readers of GOSP will recognize this whimsical tilt-a-whirl from a recent post about the South Pasadena Fun Fair. I couldn't resist posting another shot for today's theme. There is something so tender and hopeful and human about feet. These dangling sneakered tootsies make me smile. I think poet Sharon Creech gets to the point here:


Thump-thump, thump-thump
bare feet hitting the grass
as I run run run
in the air and like the air
weaving through the trees
skimming over the ground

touching down
thump-thump, thump-thump
here and there
there and here
in the soft damp grass

thump-thump, thump-thump
knowing I could fly fly fly
but letting my feet
thump-thump, thump-thump

touch the earth

at least for now. . .

Be sure to take a look at the many creative Theme Day images by other photobloggers around the world. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants