Tuesday, August 31, 2010

After all, art is subjective anyway...

It's been a while since I've mentioned lomography -- the happy-go-lucky photography movement based on the phrase "Don't think, just shoot." Lomography humbly began with snapshots taken by the Russian state-produced 35mm LOMO LC-A Compact Automat Camera. The camera was easy to use, cheap to obtain and widely used by photographic comrades all over the former USSR. The unique, colorful and often blurry images became signatures for a new style of photography that was light on technique and heavy on candid documentation. It's a movement I wholeheartedly embrace not only because it fits right into the tradition of cinema verite and la nouvelle vague, but also because it makes happy accidents like this shot somehow seem more artistic.

I actually took the motto "Don't think, just shoot" a step further with this image. It was more like: "Don't think, don't look, don't even notice that after drinking a mimosa at lunch and laughing so hard you fall against your open handbag, the camera laying on top of it just shoots." (Somehow I don't think my slogan is nearly as catchy.)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Settings: Part 31

I can't decide what we would find beyond that gate, but whatever it is, I'll bet it would make a great setting for a movie. You know what that means, my dear readers-with-cinematic-brainpower: if you were directing a movie scene set at this location, what would happen here? (I'm thinking either something with fairies and enchantment -- maybe a contemporary retelling of Midsummer Night's Dream -- or a party scene involving a 1970s wooden hot tub. There just has to be one of those back there...)

On another note:
Be sure to check out the latest addition to the City Daily Photo family of blogs: Mammoth Lakes Daily Photo by our most beloved friend (and always a Southern California girl no matter what location) The Chieftess.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Day Before School Starts

Tomorrow is the first day of school for South Pasadena students. For some, like Little Bit, it's the very first day of school. Tomorrow, a new generation of intrepid five year olds will leave behind the soft blankie of early childhood for Kindergarten and all of its big kid wonders.

That means today is a special day. It marks not only the end of the summer of 2010, but the end of the preschool era and a moment for many parents to look at each other and say, "Wait... what happened to the baby?" It's an exciting and hopeful day, a day worthy of grand summer festivities involving water balloons, kites and ice cream. (Two scoops. Not one.) It's a day of little voices shouting big plans. ("I'm going to learn to be an astronaut, a ballet dancer, a movie star, an ice skater and a robot engineer!") It's a day of unscuffed shoes and unmarked notebooks, of slates that are blank and imaginations that are filled to the brim.

It's a day we probably won't remember years from now when we look at family pictures. Sure, we'll have the ones from tomorrow -- the one with the big smile and the new backpack, the one with the brave walk down that long school sidewalk. We'll always remember tomorrow. But let's remember today, too. That day when being little was still carefree. That day when fairies were still real and monsters were simply fuzzy creatures from Pixar, not mean kids on a school playground. That day in August when possibility stretched out ahead with an infinite number of beautiful, exciting, stupid, confusing, heartbreakingly wonderful choices.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

We'll never know...

"I swear it's him."

A young woman standing on the train platform next to me ducked behind her friend.

"It's not him."

"No, I think it's him."

The friend took off her sunglasses and squinted.

"Huh. Maybe it is him."

"Ok, I have to hide."

The young woman moved behind a lamp post.

"Don't be so idiotic. It wasn't that big of a deal."

The young woman grabbed her friend by the arm and yanked.

"It. Was. A. Big. Deal."

The friend squinted again.

"Yeah, well I don't think it's him."

And then the train came.

Friday, August 27, 2010

On lost dogs, five year olds and philosophical ponderings...

"Can we keep him? Can we keep him? Can we keep him?"

Little Bit was jumping up and down. The him in question was jumping, too.

"We can't do that, " Jon said. "He already has a family who probably misses him. I'll go call the number."

"I'm not so sure Daddy's right," Little Bit whispered to me when Jon was out of earshot. "Maybe this doggie escaped from somewhere terrible."

"I don't think so," I said. "He has hearts on his collar. His owner must love him very much."

"Not as much as I do."

Later, as our fuzzy new friend was whisked away by a happy and relieved owner, Little Bit sat on the front porch steps and sighed.

"That doggy was lost and now he's found?"

"Yes," I said.

"But we lost him." She said. "It's weird how things like that can happen, isn't it?"

It certainly is.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hot Tempered

After an unusually cool summer, excessive heat warnings were issued for Los Angeles County yesterday.

Just in time for my central air to go kerflooey.

As the temperatures inched toward triple digits, my brave little 110 year old house clung to an interior 88 degrees before finally collapsing into the nineties right around five o'clock where it remained until close to eleven PM. The repair guy couldn't schedule me an appointment until late afternoon today. He'll be the one knocking on the front door. I'll be the puddle on the living room floor.

Expect another scorcher today and tomorrow, then back to the odd summer chill over the weekend. That's good news for all Southern Californians, not just this cranky blogger. As 500 firefighters currently work to contain a wildfire in Kern County, I remember last year's fire season all too well.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Play's the Thing

Arroyo Seco Park is one of South Pasadena's tucked-away treasures. It spans 19.9 acres of parkland and includes soccer fields, baseball diamonds, horse and hiking trails, picnic tables, barbecues, undeveloped wooded areas and a flood channel. It's a quiet, breezy getaway curving along the Arroyo Seco with the skate park, racquet center and wonderfully retro golf course on one end and San Pascual Stables on the other. You'll even find a tiny, underused river rock amphitheater behind one of the baseball diamonds. (Why underused, you ask? Well, although the stone stage begs for a Hamlet soliloquy, the poison oak warning signs behind it are a bit of a buzz kill...) All in all, this is a beautiful oasis ideal for taking a jog, kicking a ball or just stretching out under one of those heritage maple trees.

But seriously, what's up with the playground equipment?!

Garfield Park and Orange Grove Park have lovely, well-maintained playscapes that are not only safe for little exploring hands but challenging for little developing minds. By contrast, Arroyo Seco Park has a few tired swings, a jungle gym that makes you hope your tetanus shots are up to date and a slide that is to playground equipment what Charlie Brown's Christmas tree was to holiday decorations. Come on, South Pas! Who do I have to bug to make this playground fun for the preschoolers and worthy of the magnificent surroundings?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Candy Red...

... and just as sweet.

Just when I think I've photographed every vintage car in South Pasadena, I stumble upon another one. How is this for a delicious little bonbon?

Monday, August 23, 2010


Where can you go to load up on a bowl of frozen sweetness topped with four types of chocolate chips, rainbow sprinkles, jelly beans and hot fudge ... and still rationalize that its health food? Welcome to Menchies, the frozen yogurt bar happily justifying decadent behavior on Mission, right next to Mike and Anne's.

For the angel on your right shoulder: it's an eclectic collection of wholesome frozen yogurt with all those live cultures your internist tells you your gut craves. You can pick from a huge selection of regular flavors or suit your particular dietary fancy with choices of low-carb, no sugar added and dairy free. Isn't that nice? Can't you feel your cholesterol numbers dropping? Not so fast, cowboy. For the devil on your left shoulder: let me introduce you to the toppings bar. Browse bin upon bin of sugary goodness including marshmallows, nuts, brownies, M&Ms, butterfinger pieces, Fruity Pebbles cereal, hot fudge and caramel. Oh, all right, tell that angel he can get the carob chips, fresh berries and no sugar added fudge.

Choose your pleasure and pay by weight so you can have as little (yes, Mr. Angel) or as much (right on, Devil Man!) as you want.

In a word? Yum.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rash Decisions

On my 24th birthday my roommate organized a picnic with a big group of friends. It was somewhere in the Hollywood hills near Laurel Canyon. Or maybe it was off a trail somewhere near Patrick's Roadhouse up PCH. I forget. But I do remember the many bottles of cheap Chianti from Trader Joes and someone's bright idea to gather wildflowers from the pretty meadow. Gathering turned into drunken frolicking with attempts at weaving daisy chains and making leaf pile angels. The Smiths/Cure/Depeche Mode mix tape on the boom box was turned off in favor of a group rendition of Age of Aquarius, complete with choreography. We were modern day wood nymphs! We were one with nature! We were ... good lord ... covered in welts.

If only there had been signs.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Do I have access to a time machine? Sometimes I wonder. I glanced out of my window while stopped at a red light on Fair Oaks and was instantly transported back to the 1950s. We know that living in South Pas is a little like living inside the set of an old movie. This shot proves it. I was beamed right into an outtake from American Graffiti. A vintage black and white Victoria right in front of the town's most beloved retro diner? It's almost too much. Wait... a straw fedora on the driver, too? It is too much!

Oh well, you know what they say: too much of a good thing is wonderful.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Market Analysis

Hey, someone took a bite out of my still life. (Can you find it?)

Late summer produce abounds at the South Pasadena Farmers Market, and some of it is as artistically inspiring as it is tasty. For 11 years the market has been a fantastic place for food (and creative inspiration) but now that the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce has taken over operations it just keeps getting better and better. The Chamber continues to add a broader selection featuring new farmers. (In addition to traditional produce like watermelon you can now find stonefruit and organic Asian greens. Take that other farmers markets!) The South Pas market has more certified organic growers than ever before with even more coming on board under the wise and watchful eye of market manager Greta Dunlap. Greta knows her business: she served as an advisor to the Secretary of Agriculture for eight years and is President of the California Small Farm Conference. Greta also is a member of the California Federation of Certified Farmers’ Markets, the North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association (NAFDMA) and the California Alliance for Family Farmers. Read about her right here.

You'll find more and more community-oriented events in the coming months, too. Next Thursday, August 26th, the market presents a Back to School Safety Fair and Healthy Food Gathering. Count me in!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Craftsman Challenge: Round 6

It's been a while since I've taken the Craftsman Challenge but this cozy, green wonder seemed to be begging for a portrait. South Pasadena has hundreds of Arts and Crafts houses and each one is an inspiration -- not to mention a tricky subject to photograph. (Those shadowy porches! Those blindingly reflective slanting rooftops!)

I've already waxed rhapsodic about this period of design, but I can't help repeating myself:

Simple. Beautiful.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sunset Paparazzi

I often stop for the sunset along Arroyo Drive. This time, a film shoot forced me to stop. A production company was setting up one of those shots where a camera is mounted on the front of a car to film a character driving. I didn't mind the delay, though. It was a great excuse to enjoy the late afternoon view along with the gentleman silhouetted in the right side of this picture. Shortly after I snapped this, the man got up, walked over to the film shoot and climbed into the driver's seat of the car just in time for the director to yell "action!"

I'm not sure who he is ... but there he is!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wait a Minute...

You guys know how much I love Gus's BBQ. The brisket could make stoic cowboys weep with joy and the side dishes are so down-home good they seem straight from the butcher block counter of a Southern mama's kitchen. This place is as authentic as it is yummy.


As someone born and raised in Texas I can honestly say I've never seen a mounted longhorn displayed next to pink orchids. It's kind of like satin boxers worn under chaps. (I love it!)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fairy woods where the wild bee wings

Fairy places, fairy things,
Fairy woods where the wild bee wings,
Tiny trees for tiny dames--
These must all be fairy names!

Tiny woods below whose boughs
Shady fairies weave a house;
Tiny tree-tops, rose or thyme,
Where the braver fairies climb!

Fair are grown-up people's trees,
But the fairest woods are these;
Where, if I were not so tall,
I should live for good and all.

--Robert Louis Stevenson

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rorschach Walkway

Whenever I walk past this gate, I get distracted by that stone. It reminds me of something. Shakespeare's face? A map of Africa? What do you think?

Friday, August 13, 2010


Twilight, a timid, fawn, went glimmering by, and Night, the dark-blue hunter, followed fast.

--George William Russell

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Window (un)Dressing

The curving wall, the Spanish tiles and the dark wood balcony are fabulous enough, but those curtains on the outside of the windows! It's like this old girl is flaunting convention and flashing her petticoats.

Beyond wonderful.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


If you haven't wandered into Zinnia, you're definitely missing out on one of the funkiest, most inspiring shops in the greater Los Angeles area. Modestly described as "an artist's store," Zinnia is more like a garage sale hosted by muses. You won't find oil paints or sketch pads (well, maybe they're in there somewhere...) but what you will find are overflowing baskets, bins and shelves of interesting stuff. There are beads and trinkets, stamps and old postcards, antique keys and buttons, shells, old typewriter keys, vintage photos, ribbons, rocks, papers, mismatched door handles, doll heads, springs and some unidentifiable items that just look cool. This isn't a mere store, it's an emporium of exquisite doodads and magical bijoux. If ever there was a chance to finally use the word gewgaw in conversation, it would be here. Zinnia definitely has the gewgaw you're looking for. (And a few more you didn't know you needed.)

The last time I stopped by I couldn't resist buying a mobile made out of old chandelier crystals and a rusted house number 3. If you are nodding your head, then Zinnia is the place for you. Plus, how can you go wrong with a shop that also has classes with names like "Needle Felted Fairy" and "The Art of the Altered Page?"

Read what others say about Zinnia here. Better yet, stop by and get lost among all the treasures. (And be sure to pet the store cat. He's a sweetheart.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Come on. You know you see it too.

It's a skylight pull.

And it's right over our bed.

And every morning when I wake up, I swear it looks just like a screaming monkey.

Monday, August 9, 2010

William Holden Slept Here (well sort of)

When cinephiles trek to South Pasadena in search of William Holden's childhood home, they're often befuddled. Census records list 1911 Fletcher Avenue as the residence of 11 year old William Beedle -- Holden's name before Paramount Pictures changed it. (The rent for the Fletcher Avenue home was $62.50 a month. The census report also made note that the house had a radio.) But at some point 1911 Fletcher Avenue was consumed by the parking lot behind Huntington Cleaners, now bordered by this lovely hedge.

In 1921 three year old William Beedle moved with his family from O'Fallon, Illinois to South Pasadena. His mother taught school in neighboring Monrovia. His father was a chemist with Gooch Industries. The family was pleased that sleepy, respectable South Pasadena was aligned with their Midwestern values and seemed light years away from the wild, outrageous antics of nearby Hollywood.

But after Billy Beedle graduated from South Pasadena High School he began inching closer to the fast lane. He performed in radio plays at Pasadena Junior College (merged in 1954 with John Muir College to become Pasadena City College.) He got his big break playing the part of an 80 year old man in a play at The Playbox -- a small theater owned by the director of Pasadena Playhouse. A Paramount talent scout spotted him and offered him a contract. His mother was happy about her son's career but begged him to "date only South Pasadena girls" because she thought they weren't corrupted like those poor souls in the movie business. What's a mother to do!? (We can only guess what Mrs. Beedle eventually thought of this scene from Picnic.)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Trouble with Assistants

"Mommy, why are you taking a picture of those mailboxes?"

"I think they look pretty from this angle."

"Don't you think it would be a better picture if you took it down here?"

"I like it right here."

"Don't you think it would be better if I was in the picture?"

"Not this one."

"What if I was just in a little of the picture?"

"Next time."

"How about if I just barely touch one of the mailboxes? Won't that add something interesting to your picture? Then your picture won't be so boring, Mommy. Instead it will be a picture of the amazing spoooooooooky hand that came from the sky and covered the whole town! You'll see. Let me help you."


Everyone is an art director.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I like to think that Tony and Lisa are still in luv. Maybe they had their first kiss while checking out the view from underneath the water tower. Maybe he proposed to her one sunset along the Arroyo. Maybe they cruised around in something fast before finally settling down. Maybe they still go out for breakfast on Saturday mornings or perhaps ice cream on Sunday afternoons. Maybe he still beats her at mini golf. (Maybe she still lets him win.)

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Topiary in Monochrome

I've discussed these odd but wonderful Southern California yard creations before. I think they are as much a part of the local landscape as palm trees. They have a certain Dr Seuss quality in their natural green. But don't they look dramatic and surreal in black and white?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Joy Ride

Classic car, heritage trees. (Just another afternoon drive in South Pas.)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Conversation Piece

I pulled over to take a cell phone call and looked out of my window to see these fantastic windows. California's hands free law is great for making you stop and if not smell the roses at least notice the stained glass poinsettias.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Woman's Work

I wasn't sure what it was, exactly. I had never seen any members coming or going. Then, there was that name. I had been searching the internet for"Women's Club of South Pasadena" with few results. (Lessons for living in the now? Federation of Folk Dancing!) Then I looked more closely at the sign. Go ahead and click the picture yourself. I'll wait.

Woman's Club of South Pasadena.


Who is this woman and why does she have her own club?!

I immediately thought of a crazy billionaire heiress sitting alone at a long conference table wearing a tinsel crown and waving a gavel. "It's my organization!" She yells into the empty space. "Mine, all mine!" As it turns out, Woman's Clubs -- ones with informative websites (and many members) -- can be found in many cities across the country. These philanthropic groups have different missions, but all are dedicated to improving their local communities, often through the building of libraries and other forms of public service. You can read a brief Wikipedia entry about the history here.

I should have learned by now not to try and figure out mysterious organizations...