Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Blues

I think my vintage car series has more blue cars than red ones... but who's counting?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Non Sequitur

As foreboding as this place looks, I swear I heard this when I last drove by.

(I love this town.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Wind at Your Back

This is the view you'd glimpse if you rode your bike along the Arroyo toward the Rose Bowl. It's something my husband loves to do. And since today is his birthday, I thought he could get a head start on his weekend ride...

Happy, happy, happy birthday, Jon!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Settings: Part 21

My daughter calls this the melting marshmallow house, so I'm sure if she played our game her scenario would also include giant graham crackers and Hershey bars. What do you think, brilliant readers? If this were the setting for a movie, what would happen here?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rainy Season

In my younger years -- before work made all weekdays equal regardless of compelling weather, before motherhood made lazy days the stuff of dreams -- I used to read (and sometimes write) poems when it rained. Sure, a rainy day is also good for playing Wii (or watching Sleeping Beauty) but I still love turning to verse when the sky turns gray...

Song For The Rainy Season

Hidden, oh hidden
in the high fog
the house we live in,
beneath the magnetic rock,
rain-, rainbow-ridden,
where blood-black
bromelias, lichens,
owls, and the lint
of the waterfalls cling,
familiar, unbidden.

In a dim age
of water
the brook sings loud
from a rib cage
of giant fern; vapor
climbs up the thick growth
effortlessly, turns back,
holding them both,
house and rock,
in a private cloud.

At night, on the roof,
blind drops crawl
and the ordinary brown
owl gives us proof
he can count:
five times--always five--
he stamps and takes off
after the fat frogs that,
shrilling for love,
clamber and mount.

House, open house
to the white dew
and the milk-white sunrise
kind to the eyes,
to membership
of silver fish, mouse,
big moths; with a wall
for the mildew's
ignorant map;

darkened and tarnished
by the warm touch
of the warm breath,
maculate, cherished;
rejoice! For a later
era will differ.
(O difference that kills
or intimidates, much
of all our small shadowy
life!) Without water

the great rock will stare
unmagnetized, bare,
no longer wearing
rainbows or rain,
the forgiving air
and the high fog gone;
the owls will move on
and the several
waterfalls shrivel
in the steady sun.

--Elizabeth Bishop

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hot Pursuit

I have challenges in my daily quest to bring you interesting glimpses of our fair city. Like here, for example. When I saw this charming pair on a Sunday joyride I just knew I had to grab a shot of them. Look at that scrumptious buggy wagon! But don't let the quaint image fool you -- these two could have outrun prohibition-era feds through Raymond Chandler's version of Los Angeles. Then there was the problem of other cars getting in the way. And a peloton of weekend roadies pedaling toward the Rose Bowl. And my dilemma of having to actually drive my car -- following Bonnie and Clyde up there -- leaving me unable to take a photograph. I had the bright idea of setting my camera on auto, waving it out of the window and snapping continuously. That yielded choppy images of the camphor trees, the asphalt, my windblown camera strap and a particularly scary view of the side of my head. Finally, I was saved by a stop sign. I stopped further back, aimed, and grabbed the image I wanted. Gotcha, you two!

I'm not sure if I'm a dedicated artist or a stalker.

Oh, and in the spirit of full disclosure this shot was taken on Arroyo just barely over the border into Pasadena. (But to be fair, I chased that car all the way from Trader Joes.)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Icing on the Cake...

This view from Raymond Hill is the gorgeous result of last week's storms. We don't normally see snow this close to us.

(Want to get even closer? Go over to Altadenahiker and check out her vantage point. And Ben over at the sky is big in pasadena has yet another view. And wouldn't you know it? So does Tash at Palos Verdes Daily Photo. And so does East of Allen! And Altadena Daily Photo! This has turned into a local Theme Day!)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Calm After the Storm

Clouds parted briefly yesterday around 4:45 ... just in time for magic hour. Isn't it amazing how blue the sky looks after a week of rain?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Swept Away

"Mommy," my daughter says, "I really want to go outside."

"We can't go outside," I say. "It's raining."

"You've been saying that for a hundred years."

"It hasn't been a hundred years..."

"For my whole life," she says, "for Daddy's whole life, too."

"Let's watch another movie," I say.

"I never want to see another movie again," she says. "We've watched movies forever."

"Not forever," I say, "just this week."

"I want to go outside."

"I'm putting on Sleeping Beauty..."

One hour and forty six minutes later:

"Look Mommy!" My daughter points out the window. "It's a perfect afternoon for a walk!"

"Honey, it's still raining."

"No, I don't think it is."

"What's that, then?" I say. "That wet stuff out there?"

"I don't see anything," she says.

"It's rain."

"Maybe it's just mist?"

"Let's paint a picture. Won't that be fun?"

"It's not healthy that you won't let me go outside," she says. "Four year old girls need to be able to play outside."

"Four year old girls don't play in a winter storm."

"We could have an adventure!" She says. "We could explore exciting Storm Town!"

"Let's paint a picture," I say.

"I'm not happy about this," she says.

Ten minutes later:

"Maybe the parrots need us to bring them a towel, " she says. "The parrots aren't used to all this rain. We can't let the parrots down, Mommy."

"The parrots are fine," I say. "Let's build the biggest block tower we've ever seen!"

"Okay," she says, "that's a great idea."

"It is?" I say.

"And I say we build it outside!"

"We have to wait until it stops raining."

She pauses. Smiles. Hugs me.

"Mommy," she says. "I was just wondering..."

"What is it?"

"Well," she says, "it looks really pretty out there. Do you have a picture for your blog?"

She keeps smiling. She doesn't blink. This is what it feels like when you can no longer paddle and you're finally pulled under.

"I'll get the camera," I say. "You get the umbrellas."

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Yesterday's heavy rains pounded Southern California and forced evacuations in some foothill communities below the wildfire-ravaged mountains. The downpour closed a major highway, knocked out power to thousands and even caused lightning strikes on two airliners.

But it was nothing compared to the storm going on at last night's City Council meeting.

(You can read a brief summary in yesterday's comments.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Behind Closed Doors

It's hard to tell what's going on in this photograph of the South Pasadena City Council chambers ... but citizens can certainly participate in the operation of our city government when the council meets in open session.

I'm glad I raised my voice at the last meeting. I stood alongside former mayors, activists and other members of our community. We each expressed enthusiastic support of our police chief Dan Watson. We questioned why the council inexplicably began recruitment for another chief when the one we have now has done such an excellent job for the past 8 years.

We didn't get any answers.

Tonight's City Council meeting is at 7:30PM, 1424 Mission Street. I encourage all concerned South Pas citizens to attend. If you wish to be included in the public comments, be sure to fill out a yellow card and hand it in to the city clerk before 8:30PM.

You can read more about the situation with Chief Watson in my earlier posts here. You can also read what journalists at the Pasadena Star News had to say here, here and here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mountains in the Stream

You know what it looks like when you dump an overflowing ashtray into the toilet? Multiply that by about a bazillion and you'll get an idea of what the water looked like coursing down the Arroyo yesterday. No, an oil tanker didn't somehow overturn in the Hahamongna Watershed. This black water is the result of heavy rain pouring down the San Gabriel Mountains, bringing along ash and debris left from August's devastating Station Fire.

I never thought I'd see the charred remnants of a forest floating downstream.

More rain is expected today.

Update, January 23: Check out our friend Pasadena Adjacent's incredible post on the subject. Be sure to follow her links, too.

Monday, January 18, 2010


A storm blew in yesterday afternoon -- the opening act of today's main attraction storm system. Most of South Pas looked gray except for this lovely tableau on Meridian.

The National Weather Service says these storms may be the biggest since 1998's El Nino floods. Meteorologists predict 8 to 16 inches in our nearby foothills-- the communities below the epic 250 square mile burn area of last summer's Station Fire. (8 to 16 inches?!) The Los Angeles Fire Department and Bureau of Street Services are providing sandbags to burn-area residents. Dial 311 to find a fire station or Street Services location near you, or check out the LAFD's blog or the Bureau of Street Services. If South Pasadena residents need sandbags, contact the South Pasadena Fire Department.

But maybe these clouds have silver linings. Heavy rain will certainly jumpstart all those little seeds scattered across our wildfire-scarred mountains...

Update: Friend of GOSP Mister Earl commented with a link to this hilarious UCLA student video about how Los Angeles reacts when it rains. It's worth a look, though folks outside the region might not be in on the joke...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Familiar Places

My family spent yesterday just chilling out: a morning walk around the neighborhood, a lazy afternoon playing at Eddie Park and this sunset view from the benches above the skate park.

I had to smile when I heard this song coming from a neighbor's window...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Car(pe) Diem

So, let's lighten up after a particularly heavy week, shall we? Just look at this sweet ride, perched on top of a hill on a perfect South Pas winter morning. Since it's Friday today, I say we all play hooky. Crank up the stereo and go, go, go...

Thursday, January 14, 2010


The scenes of devastation in Haiti hardly seem real. As a resident of Southern California -- another tectonically unpredictable region -- this story hits too close to home. I can hardly process this kind of news. An entire city leveled by an earthquake in a matter of seconds? Thousands dead and dying beneath tons of rubble? How does anyone make sense of it? Like Katrina, like the 2004 Tsunami, like the 2009 Australian bushfires, the Haitian earthquake proves that nature is capriciously vicious. Even the rocks my daughter made shapes with on the sidewalk yesterday are the result of millions of years of chaotic, species-eradicating cataclysms.

I have a hard time making sense of random destruction. What happened in Haiti isn't the kind of everything-happens-for-a-reason plot point in a novel. It isn't a scene from a film by Roland Emmerich. It's not one of those scary bible stories told in Southern Baptist Sunday School. It's real and it's happening right now halfway across the world. It's happening as I sit in my comfy bed munching on Lays potato chips and wrestling with the same kind of existential questions that have plagued humankind since the first guy crawled out of a cave and wondered why he was able to get out when the other guy was eaten by a saber tooth tiger.

Grace doesn't always make sense. And sometimes karma seems to be rife with loopholes.

So, I count my blessings and ache for those who have lost so much. I also look for ways to make a difference. If you are looking too -- here are a few links to organizations that need our help:

Yele Haiti is Haitian-born Wyclef Jean's community service organization. You can make donations to the site -- if it's not down from too much traffic. (Keep trying.) You can also text YELE to 501501

Doctors Without Borders is asking for donations to assist their Haiti Earthquake Response team. The organization needs funds to dispatch additional emergency staff, including a surgical team and equipment to establish a 100-bed inflatable tent hospital with two operating rooms.

Oxfam needs help with setting up public health, sanitation and clean water services.

The American Red Cross is already out of medical supplies, affecting the organization's ability to assist critically injured patients in Haiti.

Mother nature may be able to destroy -- but her children are pretty good at helping to rebuild. In fact, that may be the only thing that makes sense to me at times like this. Feel free to add more links to reputable charities in comments.

Update: Increase the generosity! Jon reminded me that many employers -- especially larger companies -- will match your charitable contribution. Keep your receipts and be sure to ask your HR people about it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bad News

This is the front page of today's South Pasadena Review. It leads with a story about South Pasadena police chief Dan Watson's decision to retire. Does this announcement surprise anyone after the shameful treatment he received from the South Pasadena City Council? (You can read my first post about this issue here.) The story goes on to cover the many, many South Pasadena notables who have spoken out in favor of the chief -- at council meetings and elsewhere. The paper includes a full page ad listing dozens and dozens of names of South Pas residents who support the chief and want him to stay. There's a second smaller ad and a page full of letters to the editor -- all echoing the same sentiment: We Want Dan Watson as Our Police Chief.

Is the council listening? Doubtful. At last week's meeting, the chorus of adamant citizens who spoke -- including former mayors, activists, esteemed members of the community and even yours truly -- didn't sway the council. A reliable source told the South Pasadena Review that "four members in closed session sided with the decision to recruit a new chief, while Mayor Richard Schneider was the only one pushing to keep Watson on board."

South Pas resident Ron Rosen wrote in his letter to the editor, "Do we want a City Council that acts in the best interests of the city? Or a council that acts based on the personal agendas of its individual members?"

I think former mayor Odom Stamps summed it up well when he wrote an open message to the council in my blog comments a few days ago. The message was also printed in today's South Pasadena Review:

For the past eight years the City of South Pasadena has experienced an unusually high percentage of turnover of almost every department head, often multiple times, including the City Manager. Consequently there is a dearth of institutional memory and the results are a loss of public employee morale, a lessening of the quality of services to the community, as well as numerous real and some costly problems due to lack of follow through on a range of issues, and confused (and broken) policy decisions.

For eight years one shining example to the contrary has been the excellent service and leadership of Police Chief Dan Watson. He stepped in to head up an organization that had endured several scandals and has overseen a complete reversal of that perception and reality - It is now a police force esteemed by our community. And the community let’s you elected officials know this at every appropriate opportunity, whether it has been the decision to keep the police as a part of our government rather than to contract the service out to the county sheriff, or the standing ovation Dan Watson received when city officials that attended were announced at the TOR Crunch Party last week.

Beyond establishing an exemplary work record, Dan and Kathy Watson also have given largely of their time and money in active community service work, including Rotary Club (past President), SPTOR, ACS Relay For Life, to name three. They are both fixtures at our community events. This man deserves the South Pasadena Review’s “Citizen of the Year Award”, for many jobs well done - not the humbling requirement of having to reapply for his job, as one among many.

Most of us can’t take the time to come and speak out at City Council meetings, and when we do, it’s usually to complain about something believed to be going wrong – not to attest to what’s going right. It was therefore an inspiration to those in the community who do follow government actions when our City Clerk, Sally Kilby and our City Treasurer, Vic Robinette got up to support Chief Watson. The following meeting eight more community activists, including former Mayor Harry Knapp and myself took the opportunity to do so. I expect that this will lead to a ground swell of support at the next meeting, until such time as this issue is resolved, and the Chief is accorded the respectful treatment that he is due.

This has been made necessary because of the public airing of the issues involving the Chief’s employment in the past two issues of our Newspaper of Record. After the shameful treatment that very recently played out in the pages of that same newspaper, leading to the dismissal of our City Manager – people who know and respect Chief Watson are understandably upset.

We expect that the City Manager would deal fairly and privately with his employees on any personnel matter, and he has a duty to investigate any allegation or complaint as well as the record of achievement in making up his mind. To my knowledge, City Manager John Davidson is doing just that. But because this process has been brought to public attention, and that the review of the Chief’s record extends past the expiration of his employment agreement, and that others are encouraged to apply, makes what should have been a private employment negotiation, an embarrassment.

Therefore I urge the City Manager to conclude his review with all deliberate speed, and if everything is found to the good, to quickly conclude negotiations with the Chief. Separately I urge the Council to get ahead of the rumor and innuendo mill with a resolution of support for Chief Watson and the great job you know him to be doing. Such a resolution would go a long way to reassure the town that our local government is professionally run, that it’s leadership respects long serving, capable managers, and also to buoy the morale of the City’s employees with the knowledge that a job well done is a secure job.

I think the council should instruct the city manager to beg Chief Watson to rescind his retirement and stay on.

Concerned citizens are printing another ad in next week's paper. If you would like to include your name as a supporter of Chief Dan Watson and/or contribute to ad costs please email

Update at 9:00AM: Take a look at what Larry Wilson has to say in The Pasadena Star News.

Update at 3:00PM: Here's an article on the subject by Alfred Lee, also in The Pasadena Star News today. Interesting note: Council members David Sifuentes, Mike Ten, Michael Cacciotti and Mayor Richard Schneider did not return Lee's calls for comment Tuesday. Councilman Philip Putnam could not be reached.

Update on January 17, 2010: Read Pasadena Star News' writer Larry Wilson's newest column touching on a legal aspect of the council's actions.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


After the day's chaos settles down, an ambient lullaby lulls the city to sleep. It's a wonderfully ordinary collection of sounds -- a lonely dog whining on a back porch, a loose muffler sputtering up a hill, the nearby thunk of a car door, the distant wail of a siren. And sometimes, you'll hear a song coming from somewhere nearby. Maybe this one. Or this.

Or maybe nothing at all except your own footsteps on the sidewalk.

Monday, January 11, 2010


I felt a little guilty hanging out at the top of this hill while the runner on the right huffed and puffed up from the bottom. People all over town are lacing up new sneakers and keeping those new year's resolutions. Me? I just take more pictures...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Settings: Part 20

I'll admit this one is a little unusual for my favorite game, but indulge me a bit and play along. Tell me, dear readers ... if this happened to be the location for a scene in a movie, what would happen here?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Work Song

I had the car windows rolled down on yet another mild January afternoon. While I waited for a light to change at Huntington and Fair Oaks I heard one of these men singing. It was something lovely. Melodious. And I wondered ... what's that poem? That one about the workers singing?

It was this one:

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

--Walt Whitman

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Low Tech

Who needs a high definition flat screen when you can just sit along the Arroyo at sunset?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Reason #1025 Why People Dream of Moving to Southern California: to drive a vintage car with the top down on a January afternoon...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Still Life with Robot

Blame it on after-holiday chores(or on the two glasses of wine with dinner) but your faithful blogger was caught unprepared for today's post. It's not that I have a lack of photographs to share. I have shots of fascinating businesses on Mission! I have shots of beautiful Craftsman homes! I have enough shots of snowy San Gabriel mountains to make everyone start singing The Sound of Music! Ehhh, but I'm uninspired by all of them.

Instead, I give you this weird little guy my daughter left on the kitchen counter last night. Who knows, maybe this is the start of a new series ... Odd Assortments? Laurie's Little Slice of South Pas? (Pictures Posted After Drinking?)

Don't worry. I'll be back to our regularly scheduled program tomorrow.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


When does it happen? When do we stop skipping through life and start muddling through it? I had forgotten about this summer shot from the Farmers Market but I remember exactly why I grabbed my camera at that moment. This image is a good reminder. So often I'm exactly like the serious woman ... but I need to be more like the carefree little boy. (Don't we all?)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

No Valet

I couldn't resist returning to this noirish spot for a study in black and white. I can imagine Orson Welles lurking behind one of those brick columns...

Friday, January 1, 2010

Spare Changes

Today is not only New Years Day, but Theme Day for participating City Daily Photo bloggers. This month's theme is Changes.

My house was built in 1900. The windows here have provided a view of many changes over the years. Outside these windows carriages gave way to cars, saplings grew into heritage trees and a western outpost transformed into a booming, metropolitan city. When I sit at my laptop I often imagine how others once occupied the same place in my home. Perhaps someone sat at a typewriter, or an inkwell, pondering the changing world or wondering about their place in history. Or maybe just jotting down dreams the way we always do when we try to pin them down and make them real.

It's 2010 -- a year that must have been hard to envision by the original owner of this house. It's a fantastical, futuristic number even by my own born-in-the-sixties standards. Changes have come fast and furious in my own lifetime. When I first decided to be a writer, I figured it out by scribbling a journal in a spiral notebook. When I first tried to imitate Henri Cartier Bresson's street photography, it was with an old Polaroid. Now I have three computers, two digital cameras and a cell phone with both a keyboard and a camera. Could I have imagined it all when I was a kid? Probably not. No more than I can really imagine the hovercraft/shrinking ray/internet-wired-int0-your-brain inventions of the coming years.

It's strange how moments that feel so modern slip into the past before we've quite realized it. I remember once, sometime in college, chuckling over the clothes and hairstyles in my mother's high school yearbook. "Didn't you all realize how silly you looked?" I asked Mom... while sporting my own AquaNet-sprayed big bangs, spandex miniskirt and ripped fishnets. Changes find all of us. Eventually.

I've stopped trying to guess the future or predict what may happen next. I learned my lesson back on New Years Eve in 1979 when, tipsy off a bottle of warm Asti Spumante, I spoke passionately to my high school friends about how I just knew from the deepest fathoms of my very bone marrow that the 1980s were going to bring about a new decade of selflessness, philanthropy and altruism. Yeah, well, I never claimed to be a futurist. But whatever changes are rolling in on this year's turning wheel, may they bring you wonder and delight. The future is now. Here's to a great view. Happy New Year, everyone.

For even more interpretations of today's theme, check out the talented group of worldwide bloggers who joined in the fun. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants