Sunday, February 28, 2010

Stepping it Up

You'll find these lovely stairs on the west side of South Pasadena High School. The building is so art deco chic it reminds me of an old Busby Berkeley musical. In fact, these steps really need to be the backdrop of something musical. Can't you imagine a scrappy young couple marching down arm in arm, belting a number like this? Or maybe a few friends celebrating the start of summer? Or perhaps the football team heading over to the field for practice and warming up with something inspirational?

I have high school envy. My fellow classmates never could agree on whether our cement block of a school looked more like a convalescent home or a correction facility. But South Pas High? It's too cool for school.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Happiness is Free

Just ask two cousins playing tag in the park.

I stumbled across this photo when I was looking through my files from last summer. Here is an image of my daughter and nephew as they ran circles around each other in the little grassy area beneath Mission Station. We had just come from Busters Ice Cream. If I remember correctly, we each chose double scoops even though it was close to dinnertime.

The news makers and newscasters continue to clamor on and on in dour tones about the Great Recession but what they might want to do is talk to kids. After all, kids know what the word recess is supposed to be about.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Just Guessing

I think there is a desk up there, right behind that window. And somewhere buried underneath a stack of papers is something -- a coffee mug or perhaps a framed plaque -- that says, "a clean desk is a sign of a sick mind."

What do you think?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Outside the (window)Box

I've always loved the way Southern California adds its own carefree, sunny spin on traditional architecture. Here we have a vine-covered English mansion ... with sky blue trim. The arched door, the Tudor details and the overflowing roses in the flowerbeds are authentic examples of the period, but those windows! They add such panache. If this home were a proper English woman, she'd wear a strand of turquoise beads with a tweed suit.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Think back to the kids' magazines you had when you were growing up -- there was always a page dedicated to brain teasers. The mazes and word scrambles were okay, but what I really liked were the illustrations of everyday objects with the challenge to "find what's missing in this picture." Sometimes the cat would only have one eye. Sometimes a flower wouldn't have a stem. Sometimes a mirror would be without a reflection. On first glance, nothing seemed amiss. But after a careful study, well, I always felt like such a smartypants when I figured out those things.

So, in the spirit of mindbenders past ... find what's missing in THIS picture. (And, no, I didn't resort to Photoshop.)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hair Raising

As you may have already guessed, I love a bright red Mohawk. Maybe it's because I never had the nerve to rock such a radical look. I barely dipped my toes into punk -- when I was 15 and wore a trash bag and black lipstick to a Devo concert. That was 30 years ago, and yet a blazing Mohawk still seems new and cool and strange, doesn't it?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ellen's Silkscreening

By day, you can't beat Ellen's for silkscreening, embroidery and promotional gear. (Just ask Occidental College, the Getty Museum, the Huntington Library, the Rose Bowl, the Armory, Art Center, Cal Tech, Trader Joes and the Norton Simon Museum -- they're all clients.) Ellen's has been a San Gabriel Valley favorite since 1978, with an in-house art department that puts competitors to shame and an online catalog that contains over 250,000 promotional items.

But by night, just look at that sublime noir silhouette...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Grand Entrance

I don't know which I like most: the big red door, or the little black awning.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Being and Everythingness

File this shot under Lomography, because I caught it when I set the camera to auto, waved it over my head and started snapping.

Sometimes it pays not to think too much.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Los Minarets?

This cozy apartment building was built in 1928 -- a time when architecture definitely tilted at windmills. I think it is still considered Spanish, even with those odd cut-outs. I'm not sure if they are supposed to be reminiscent of the turrets of St. Basil's Cathedral or the domes from the Taj Mahal. Whatever the intent, the result is classic Southern California bungalow.

The red beetle is a classic in its own right, too!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Caption this photo (#27)

Kyle was the type of guy who would give you the table off his back.


She watched as he walked away from her apartment. It wasn't that the date had gone badly, just that he was such a total square.


Okay, fine. Anyone else want to give it a try?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Many Splendored Thing

Even the rooftop of Wild Thyme has been struck by Cupid's arrow! It's a good thing. As I've said before, I love Valentine's Day. My husband proposed to me on Valentine's Day, so I'm particularly sentimental. I love every hokey, over-the-top, shameless bit of it. (And the chocolates aren't bad, either.)

I know, you don't have to tell me, I've heard it all before: Valentine's Day is just a promotion created by Hallmark and we should know better than to join in. Moreover, every day should be Valentine's Day, and we don't need society telling us when to express our love. Please! It's like saying not to watch the Superbowl because you're a football fan all season.

So, my fellow romantics, here's to making such huge, lovesick fools of ourselves today even Nicholas Sparks would tell us to cool it. Here's to giving our children a reason to shake their heads at us and say, "gross." Here's to dozens of overpriced roses and countless recitations of sonnets. Here's to smooth jazz and aftershave. To champagne and caviar. To short skirts and long nights. To rekindling fires and stirring flames. And if you find yourself without a special Valentine this year, here's to realizing that Cupid is a sneaky little bugger who thrills at the idea of catching you off guard.

So here's to being off guard. And open. And when you reach into that little box of Sweethearts candies, here's to getting the one that says True Love.

Happy Valentine's Day, y'all.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Since moving to South Pasadena two years ago I've marveled at how much living here is like being in a Frank Capra movie. The small-town friendliness, the community spirit, the sense of fairness and consideration permeating everything from the business we conduct to the celebrations we share -- it all adds up to something right out of It's a Wonderful Life.

Including, unfortunately, some self-serving machinations for power worthy of George Bailey's foe, Mr. Potter.

For those readers who haven't caught up on the ongoing saga regarding the bizarre treatment of our beloved police chief Dan Watson by the South Pasadena City Council, take a look at my post here, and the follow up posts here and here. Make sure to follow the links to other media within each post.

You might want to scroll down my blog's comments section here to read the thoughtful and eloquent reply from Chief Watson himself.

After a groundswell of community support, standing-room-only council meetings with passionate speeches in favor of Chief Watson by South Pasadena residents, thoughtful letters to the editor and full page ads in the local paper expressing support from hundreds of citizens, the matter was supposedly placed in the hands of the City Manager.

And we all thought we'd have the happy ending. You know, the one right out of a Capra film where the hero keeps his job and the town celebrates with a big party.

But the City Manager didn't place another employment agreement on the Chief's desk. And then, several weeks ago, The Pasadena Star News reported that Dan Watson would not accept an offer to rescind his retirement and keep his job even if he was (eventually) asked. Most of us have a good idea why he made this decision: because he is a class act who values harmony in his department and peace in his community more than a fight with a city government that seems determined to "make a change" despite a huge public outcry. I was sad and angry when I learned the news, but I wasn't surprised. The chief -- and his countless supporters -- were up against a political wall that wasn't budging.

Apparently, Chief Watson's decision wasn't good enough. At last week's council meeting, several council members stated that they would yield their council comment time to councilman Mike Ten. What happened next was nothing less than shocking. I'll let Larry Wilson of Pasadena Star News sum it up: the midst of a huge national - and South Pasadena - downturn in serious crime, Councilman Mike Ten recently took "council comment time" from his fellow Gang of Four members at a public meeting to project a 10-minute Fox News feature on how the criminals are taking over and how tough it is to be a cop today - duh. He tried to frighten citizens for no reason at all - or, rather, because he has to justify somehow the purge. Chief Dan Watson then had to get up to tell little old ladies - and men - who had been scared witless that South Pas is actually a very safe place to live.

Sweet South Pas, being run by a machine - who would have thunk it?

Read the rest of Wilson's column here.

The 10-minute video shown included graphic images of violence against police officers. To quote from one of many email messages I've received on this subject, "For me, there was panic. Here's what I saw: Political machines winning in a small town. Unfairness. Denial. Betrayal."

There is a persistent rumor about why this is happening. Fellow South Pas blogger The Ostrich Feeder covers it here. I have no way of knowing the truth of the backstory. What I do know is that a good man, a great public servant and a fine employee of our city has been thrown under the bus. And it's wrong.

Remember It's a Wonderful Life? Where Potter is defeated and George Bailey makes his town a better place for the community?

Unfortunately, in South Pasadena's Frank Capra story, Potter wins.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ceteris Paribus...

Mark Zandi, the oft-quoted chief economist at Moody's Analytics, recently proclaimed to CBS News that "The Great Recession is Over!" This immediately brought two questions to my mind:

1) Is he sure the rest of the country got the same memo? And...

2) When did we start calling it the Great Recession?

Whatever you call it, the thing has packed a hell of a punch. It's hard to see so much of South Pasadena's charming downtown go the way of boarded-up windows and For Lease signs. Little Parlor closed. Dynasty Iron Doors closed. Would You Believe closed. Gracie's Market closed. Giant hunks of plaster are literally falling off the Rialto -- which is, for all intents and purposes, closed.

Zandi went on to add that the Great Recession is history only "in a very technical sense. It's probably in a sense only an economist can really appreciate." Yeah, that's what I was afraid of. Everyone likes to be appreciated ... but how long before the economy puts money where the economist's mouth is?

In the mean time, don't forget about supporting the many wonderful businesses, restaurants and services here in South Pas. For a great overview, check out The South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce online, or stop by and pick up a copy of South Pas Connections, the new 2010 Community Guide and Business Directory. (You might even recognize a few of the photographs in it...)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wish You Were Here

After each winter storm roars through, South Pasadena wakes up to a snow-capped morning. And suddenly, every picture becomes a postcard.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Settings: Part 22

Okay, everybody, it's time for another round of my favorite game. If this mysterious private drive were the setting for a scene in a movie ... what would happen here?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

About to Rain...

Yesterday was beautiful, but you could sense an undercurrent -- like a minor chord disrupting a melody. The weatherman says it's about to rain, but nobody sings it better than Neil Young.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Free Association

At first I thought the sign said Tree and I wondered ... was this some sort of plein air organic sculpture exhibit? Then I realized it said Free, and I thought why on earth would anyone want a free tree stump? Maybe it was meant to be a deeper message. Maybe it was pointing out that in death the spirit of the tree is finally free? Or maybe it was some kind of political statement -- free our land! Free our wild spaces! Free our trees from senseless chopping! Or maybe it was a homespun sort of commentary, you know, the best things in life are free?

I thought about it all day.

(I think too much.)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Fairytale Detail

Just when I thought I knew every house in South Pasadena, I turned a corner and noticed this one. How could I have missed those wonderful, whimsical shutters?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Freckling the Windowpane

Remember how I mentioned that I like poetry on rainy days? How about this one, by Eve Merriam:


Dot a dot dot dot a dot dot
Spotting the windowpane.

Spack a spack speck flick a flack fleck
Freckling the windowpane.

A spatter a scatter a wet cat a clatter
A splatter a rumble outside.

Umbrella umbrella umbrella umbrella
Bumbershoot barrel of rain.

Slosh a galosh slosh a galosh
Slither and slather a glide

A puddle a jump a puddle a jump
A puddle a jump puddle splosh

A juddle a pump a luddle a dump
A pudmuddle jump in and slide!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Maybe if you squint...

Whenever we drive along Fair Oaks my four year old insists the side of this building looks like "robot faces hiding behind trees."

There's a metaphor in there somewhere.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Outside the Box

I often notice these boxes in front of Fair Oaks Cigars. I really should go in sometime. I don't smoke cigars but I'm fascinated by cigar culture -- mostly because it's so contrary. (Smoking is rebellious enough in our nonsmoking era, but smoking stogies is so counterculture it's borderline punk rock.) And yet it's quaint. Smoking cigars is something people did in old black and white movies, something out of a time capsule...

Which is the real reason these boxes intrigue me. When I was 12 years old my best friend Sally had the great idea of making a time capsule. It was 1976, and Bicentennial fever had reached epidemic proportions. When the official Bicentennial American Freedom Train rolled through my hometown the hoopla was so big you'd have thought the government reanimated Abraham Lincoln to wave from the caboose. The thing was massive: a huge steam locomotive pulling twenty six train cars filled with American artifacts. George Washington's copy of the Constitution was in there. So was Judy Garland's little gingham dress from The Wizard of Oz.

"Are you going to the Freedom Train?" My classmate David was the first to ask me. He had recently gotten extra credit in history for making a poster entitled 200 Years of Texas Agriculture. It featured a map of the state showing crops of every region. The row of little cotton balls glued along the southern coast was a nice touch.

"My dad is letting me miss school," our friend Ralph said. "We're going to camp out."

"I'm going to sneak in my Polaroid," Diane said. She sat at the desk behind me and worked on the school paper. "They say you can't take pictures, but this is too important not to capture on film."

"Who cares about a bunch of old junk?" Sally said. "I mean really," she said, "so they have Betsy Ross's thimble and some moldy popcorn from the first Thanksgiving? Big deal. We could make our own time capsule and bury it in my back yard."

And so we did. We took one of her father's cigar boxes and filled it with our own artifacts. I don't remember everything, but I know there was a Tiger Beat magazine featuring Lief Garrett, a rock with a happy face drawn on it, a package of Chicklets Sally swiped from her mom's purse, the comics section of the newspaper and a cassette tape of the two of us singing a couple of songs: America the Beautiful followed by Rock and Roll All Nite.

I never did make it out to see the Freedom Train, but I still felt like I was a part of something historic.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Today is the first of the month, also known as Theme Day for participating City Daily Photo bloggers. This month's theme is Wood. This is an obvious photo choice, but can you blame me? As a Tree City, South Pasadena might actually have more trees than people. I can hardly think of a street that isn't shaded by a lush canopy. The big thicket gives our landscape a magical sort of Druid-ish/Middle Earth quality. It's a surprise for those who think the Los Angeles area is limited to freeways, beaches, strip malls and palms. Not to disrespect our beloved palms, it's just that here they are upstaged by camphors, oaks, elms, flowering pears, crape myrtles, ginkos, junipers, maples and sycamores .

For even more woodsy photographs, take a look at today's Theme Day posts from the worldwide community of creative photobloggers. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants