Saturday, October 31, 2009

Maybe he really likes carrots...

I'm not sure what this guy is supposed to be, but I have some ideas:

The spirit of a jack o lantern? The black sheep of the Blue Man Group? A tequila sunrise? At any rate, he sure brightened up the corner of Fremont and Lyndon yesterday.

So, dear readers, what are you dressing up as this Halloween?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Old Mike

Spotted in Monterey Hills. (I just love this town!)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Love Note

I can't speak with certainty about very many things. Oh, but I have my suspicions.... I suspect that soy isn't nearly as good for us as they say it is. I suspect that almost every conspiracy theory contains a kernel of truth. I suspect that many of today's known facts will someday be in the same dustbin as flat earth theory. I suspect that consciousness is far more phenomenal, enduring and individual than anything religion or neuroscience can begin to explain. I suspect that fashion designers secretly sit around laughing at what they can sucker women into wearing. I suspect that the final season of LOST is going to be a disappointment. I suspect that rock and roll does more for curing depression than Prozac and that jazz can inspire genius. I suspect that I'm rambling. Again.

But there is one thing I know: love is real. Whether this universe is merely Newtonian-mechanical or M-theory dimensional -- love is the stuff that fires it up and keeps it humming. Love. Jesus was right about it. So was John Lennon. And I'm lucky enough to have great treasure troves of it -- indeed, probably more than my share.

Today, I want everybody to revel in a giant rave-worthy love buzz because it's my wedding anniversary. Today marks 8 beautiful years with my beloved -- the one who puts up with all my rants and suspicions and who loves me anyway. My Zen-trickster groom. My comrade and champion. The smartest man I've ever met. The world's best father. The love of my life.

Happy anniversary, Jon!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

South Pas Up Close #7

South Pasadena's fertile thicket of trees and Arroyo-adjacent proximity to the San Gabriel Mountain wilderness make it a haven for critters. I've mentioned the wild parrots. And the wild peacocks. And the hawks and squirrels and skunks and chipmunks. But in our menagerie of furry and feathered friends we mustn't forget to include all the bugs.


I've been in LA for almost 22 years. Before moving to South Pas I lived in Hollywood, Venice Beach, Palms, West Los Angeles and Santa Monica. None of those areas have insects that could even hope to rumble with the likes of ours. (Well, except maybe the cockroaches in Hollywood.)

There's a kind of mysterious Land of the Lost/under intense gamma rays quality to the creepy-crawlies around here. I've seen prehistoric-looking praying mantises on my porch beams, huge walking sticks on the car windshield and one nightmare-inducing house centipede on my bedroom wall. Every spring, bees try to build hives in the attic and in the neighbors' trees. Ladybugs cling to the rosebushes and caterpillars cling to the camphor leaves. Charlotte may have spelled out words for Wilbur in Charlotte's Web, but I think the massive garden spiders in my potting shed are spinning fractals. (Maybe they work for Caltech or JPL.) The neighborhood is often visited by large, velvety-winged, black and yellow butterflies that look like they could have been painted by Gauguin. One of them recently hovered around and finally landed on my daughter. She named it Flutter.

The HUGE fly in the above photo found its way into the house the other night. Frankly, it was just too impressive to swat. After an evening of loud buzzing and desperate window tap-tap-taps, it finally found its way out the front door.

Yes, even bugs remind me of poems. This one by Katherine Mansfield:

Voices of the Air

But then there comes that moment rare
When, for no cause that I can find,
The little voices of the air
Sound above all the sea and wind.

The sea and wind do then obey
And sighing, sighing double notes
Of double basses, content to play
A droning chord for the little throats—

The little throats that sing and rise
Up into the light with lovely ease
And a kind of magical, sweet surprise
To hear and know themselves for these—

For these little voices: the bee, the fly,
The leaf that taps, the pod that breaks,
The breeze on the grass-tops bending by,
The shrill quick sound that the insect makes.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Spooky Palms

Who needs jack-o-lanterns? (I couldn't resist a little South Pas noir as Halloween draws near...)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

South Pasadena's Neighbors, Part 1: The Rose Bowl

If you take a ten minute drive from South Pas down Arroyo, you'll reach neighboring Pasadena's famous Rose Bowl. Tonight, many South Pas residents will join more than 96,000 other people gathering here to see U2 in concert -- possibly the biggest concert in Rose Bowl history. (I'll bet Pasadena daily photoblogger Ben Wideman will be in attendance. It's just a hunch...) See that big, futuristic spire jutting out of the arena? It's part of the band's enormous, 13-stories-high set.

This is one local concert where the entire world is invited: it's streaming in a live, global webcast on YouTube for free tonight at 8:30 PM, Pacific Time.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009


The gingerbread trim and purple gable make this house seem like something out of a fairy tale. And since it's getting closer to Halloween, perhaps a tale like this, from poet John Reibetanz:

The Finger Puppets in the Attic Dollhouse

If they, more petite
than the mice whose flittings
have pillaged their robes’ sparkled trim,

stood tiptoe
on the plumped felt tops
of their thimble-sized footstools

to scrutinize
the worn fabric
of this room’s blue distances,

would they locate
the source of lightning bolts
in our faces’ wrinkled pleats

and construe the stars’
dance from the tattered
embroidery of our steps,

or find in our seamless
unravelling years
the tissue of apocalypse?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Curb Appeal

Just when I think I've photographed every classic car in South Pas, I turn a corner and find another one. This cool set of wheels certainly brightened up an otherwise dreary and overcast morning.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Settings: Part 18

It's that time again, my imaginative darlings -- time for me to sit back with gleeful expectation and shout, "Action!"

If this were the setting for a film, what would happen here?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

Window Units

There's not much to say about these cute little apartments. But just look at all those rear windows! Imagine all the stories playing out behind each of them... (Kind of like this.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Duality fascinates me. I love the way two seemingly incongruous things can exist together in a kind of light/dark, up/down symbiosis. Just think about how boring life would be if we only had the angel on one shoulder demanding that we mind our manners and eat our vegetables. Without that little devil on the other side encouraging us to speak out and choose the hot fudge (and maybe add a shot of cognac,) we'd never see the world in all its complexity: good and bad, full and empty, safe and dangerous.

South Pasadena is a great study in the yin/yang idea of opposites fitting together within a greater whole. On the one hand, we have all the small town baseball and apple pie goodness of a Norman Rockwell painting, but we're tucked into the exquisite chaos of greater Los Angeles -- and that keeps us from becoming treacly or naive.

Low and high, male and female, backwards and forwards ... interacting opposites that manifest the whole. Somewhere in the grey area, we find balance. Aristotle described it as the Golden Mean, "the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency." After I eat my broccoli, I'll lift my brandy snifter to that idea. How could we have balance without something else on the other side of the scale?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Love on Fair Oaks

Let's let Omar Khayyam offer the commentary for this one:

A book of verse, underneath the bough,
A jug of wine, a loaf of bread - and thou
Beside me singing in the wilderness -
Ah, wilderness were paradise now!

Friday, October 16, 2009


You know, nothing say home sweet home quite like a wholesome scene of dormer windows, a shade tree and a tire swing.

Um, yeah. About that tire swing...

My first thought pegged it as something out of an old German expressionist film but, upon reflection, maybe it's actually a hobby horse. (From an old German expressionist film?) South Pas is definitely kooky enough to inspire a photographic series on unusual swings and things.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Face Time

I've mentioned this phenomenon before, but I just have to point out another example. Come on, dear readers ... tell me I'm not the only one who thinks this house looks like a face? A very surprised, possibly aghast face?

Or maybe I just love to anthropomorphize things.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sturm and Drain...

The greater Los Angeles area woke up to a surprise storm yesterday. It still alternately drips and roars as I write this at 12:45AM. How nice to think of something tamping down whatever might be left of fire season...

My four year old daughter pointed out today's picture. Nothing like a preschooler to educate you in the many-faceted wonder of puddles. "Look at that!" She said, pointing at the wet street. "The clouds are making mirrors on the ground and putting watercolor paints in them."


Monday, October 12, 2009

Chi Totaler

The good vibes coming off this place are so potent you can drink them in. I don't know which is more charming -- the tiny studio or the giant tree. (Maybe it's the way the two just seem to go together in some kind of zen/feng shui affinity.)

A tree that can fill the span of a man's arms grows from a downy tip;
A terrace nine stories high rises from level earth;
A journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath one's feet.

--Lao Tzu

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009


One of the reasons South Pasadena feels so comforting and homey is because it is loaded with old houses like this. I mean really now ... just look at this place! It just begs you to slow down, grab a glass of lemonade and unplug from the frenzied digital age. And don't kill my buzz by telling me the people who live here probably have a 60 inch high def TV mounted on one of those 110 year old walls, or that they use the original sun porch to access Twitter from their netbooks. You're probably right. But that's not what I imagine when I drive by.

In my mind this house is inhabited by characters out of Edith Wharton or Henry James. And the same goes for the neighboring houses. The dream of those candlelit parlours and spinet sonatinas makes me feel a little less frazzled after a long day when I unwind in my own 110 year old home. It's like everyone who lives here has sworn to uphold an unspoken pact. We preserve our old buildings and take care of our heritage trees and cheerfully call the plumber when our 19th century pipes burst so that we can make sure that we all get to live in a place that looks like a setting for plays by Thorton Wilder or films by Frank Capra.

When my family moved from West LA to South Pas, we spent the first few months in giddy sense of shock. Sure, the San Gabriel Valley is only 25 miles down the 10 and 110 freeways, but it's light years away in terms of architectural charm. (The vintage streetlamps! A million Craftsman houses! Bricks! Check out all of the wonderful old bricks!) I'm sure the spell wears off after a while. But I've been here almost two years and I'm still not over it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Food for Thought

As I've pointed out before, Nicole's Gourmet Foods is a fantastic spot for both dishing and noshing, offering a cozy outdoor setting for conversation and a great selection of yummy French goodies. It's such an inviting spot that when I walk by during off hours and look at those empty chairs, I imagine all the incredible My Dinner with Andre-type discussions I might have there. In fact, I've envisioned these scenarios enough that now when I walk by it's as if I'm actually remembering these imaginary conversations. (I'll never forget that great one about quantum physics I had with Michio Kaku and the ghost of Truffaut...)

Like Dali said, "The difference between false memories and true ones is the same as for jewels: it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant."

My flights of fancy may be artificial, but Nicole's is the real deal.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Urban Will-o'-the-Wisps

They're just street lamps, traffic signals and brake lights, right? I don't know... as Halloween approaches maybe there's another explanation for these ghostly night twinkles.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fall Foliage, South Pas Style (#2)

Cooler temperatures haven't put a damper on blooming things around here. (I just love the way Southern California thumbs her nose at convention and wears spring clothes all year round.)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Light through Concrete

There is something magical about the lavender glow coming up through glass squares in the sidewalk outside Zinnia on Mission. It's not the yellow brick road but it's definitely on the same map.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunset and Strings

Art and music combined to create a festive evening in downtown South Pas last night. Here, the South Pasadena Strings Program youth orchestra played outside the library, entertaining all who came to see the California Art Club Plein Air exhibition and shaming me for ever ditching piano lessons as a kid. Such big music from such tiny hands!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Art in the Streets

Looking for an inspirational Saturday night? Spark your creative fire, find your muse or just check out some great art at South Pasadena ArtsFest, tonight from 5-10PM. The California Art Club Plein Air Paint-out exhibition will be on display in the South Pasadena Library Community Room. In addition eight more galleries and studios will be open within walking distance. (But don't worry -- you can catch the Artmobile bus if you don't feel like making the stroll.)

Live music, beer, wine and food will be available at the Mission Gold Line Station plaza, with more jamming down the street at South Pasadena Music Center. A wide assortment of styles will be featured including alt-rock, jazz, Celtic, world music, vintage, flamenco, innovative percussion and classical.

Don't miss this chance to celebrate South Pasadena's creative spirit! Click here for more information.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I've highlighted this striking little South Pas resident before, but I felt particularly compelled to bring him back to the blog. You see, he bears a striking resemblance to a character in a new book that everyone it talking about. I heard two girls raving about it at the train station. I received several email messages in the last few days from people wanting to know if it was true that I was friends with the author.

Libba Bray's newest novel Going Bovine came out last week and it's so gloriously weird, so jaw-droppingly brilliant I just have to make sure every one of you goes out and reads it. And not just because Libba and I are old pals. (You should have seen us rocking out to Billy Idol back in college. I was sporting the Madonna-in-her-Borderline-phase look. Lib leaned more toward Cindy Lauper.)

I'm happy to name drop when it comes to raving about this novel. Not that Libba needs my help to get people to buy her books. Most readers know her as the author of the New York Times bestselling Gemma Doyle series -- a supernatural grrrl-power trilogy set in Victorian England that serves up a much juicier, cooler, more psychedelic mythology than anything found in Harry Potter. But Going Bovine? I have no idea how to describe it. Back in my copy writing days, I would have been hard pressed to come up with a tag line for the book jacket. "A boy with mad cow disease loses his mind and finds himself..." No way. That doesn't even begin to tackle the lush, heartbreaking, hilarious, mind-bending splendor of this story. As Libba described in her riotously insane book trailer it's the "feel good mad cow disease string theory book of September 2009."

It's a road trip as well as a head trip about life, death, madness, reality, love, meaning, dreams, hope, despair, humor, microwave popcorn, parallel universes, happiness cults, jazz, quantum physics, connection and the ephemeral nature of existence led by a 16 year old boy, a hypochondriac dwarf, a punk rock fairy and, yes, a talking garden gnome. Don't let the Young Adult classification throw you. This is a new classic along the lines of Catcher in the Rye and Don Quixote. (Only much more fun.) If you love John Irving, Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Robbins and Charles Dickens -- read this book. You'll never look at a garden gnome the same way again.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


It's the first of the month, and than means it's Theme Day for participating City Daily Photobloggers. This month's theme is Contrast. Lovely, mesmerizing contrast. It's why I adore monochrome photography and night shooting -- all those inky darks and silvery lights turn my little bedroom community of South Pas into a film noir playground. Contrast creates the shadows... and everyone knows it's the monsters in those lurking shadows that make the bright light feel so comforting.

Contrast is why I adore complicated people -- all those incongruous non sequiturs and seemingly incompatible views. Contrast makes us honest. It highlights all the bumps and cracks. And it's the best part about happiness. After all, without bad as contrast, good is just the same old boring status quo.

But then again, I like to tip scales.

You can contrast my approach with all the other talented members of the City Daily Photo community. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants