Sunday, October 31, 2010


Just look who I caught leering at me as I walked past Videotheque yesterday. If you're in the mood for the perfect Halloween movie to watch -- or maybe something to forget the holiday altogether -- check out the shop's amazing collection of films. We're not talking your average video store ... Videotheque is the San Gabriel Valley's independent source of indie, foreign, cult, classic, documentary, new and rare cinema DVDs and Blu-rays. Their
catalogue is so vast even Quentin Tarantino might find a movie he hasn't seen before.

And for spooky South Pasadena stories, if you haven't already taken a look, check out my Halloween column with video at South Pasadena Patch. Patch also has a great round-up of events around town and some wonderful photo montages of our town's best ghouls and goblins.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Through Marlowe's Eyes (Part 3)

It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills...

--Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

Friday, October 29, 2010

Public Display of Affection

There's a great scene in The Philadelphia Story where Katherine Hepburn gleefully tells a room full of wedding guests, "years ago, you were invited to a wedding in this house and then I did you out of it by eloping to Maryland...which was very bad manners... But I hope to make it up to you by going beautifully through with it now as originally and most beautifully planned." That sentiment resonates with me in a way. Because 9 years ago today, Jon and I eloped to the West Indies for a gloriously romantic, wildly indulgent, hopelessly ridiculously wonderful wedding in the island paradise of St. Lucia. We don't regret it for a second -- no huge wedding bills, no uncomfortable scenes with drunk guests, no bad salmon or lukewarm coq au vin or hideous bridesmaids dresses or DJs insisting on playing The Chicken Dance. Instead? Bliss, in a place that was so beautiful it didn't feel quite real.

The first night we were there, I looked out through the open louvered windows of a rustic 19th Century cottage at a huge moon dangling over the Caribbean, leaving a silver filament across the surface of the water. Little tree frogs made big night music. So many fireflies hovered in the palm trees, it looked as if both of the Pitons and all the cascading foliage were strung with Christmas lights. It was a perfect, private place to be in love, to start marriage, to sit under that otherworldly dome of stars and plan a future.

But, it didn't give us the one chance to do what most people do when they get married: stand up in front of all of their friends and family and make vows they want the entire world to hear, and share.

So, in lieu of inviting all of you to some thrown-together road trip to a Vegas Elvis chapel, I'd like to take a moment to say this. In front of everyone. In front of my friends and family members and every other kindly soul who views my daily glimpses of life here. I'd like to take a moment to say a few new vows to my husband, who after nine years has figured out I'm not quite the girl he married in St. Lucia, but still loves me, anyway:

I, Laurie, take you my Jon. Not because we're young and everything seems possible, but because we've grown up together, and you still make me believe that something wonderful is just around the next corner. I promise to keep loving you even when love seems like it's trapped in a web spun of troubles. I promise to remember the weird, glowing, spectacular uniqueness inside of you and find every way I can to keep its light bright. And I promise, just like I did 9 years ago when Mrs. Weeks our City of Soufriere civil officiant formally asked us, "will you promise to always remember to have fun together? To always remember to play?" Yes, I will. I will.

I always, always will.

Happy anniversary, Groom.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sans Flora: Fauna

I used to have a garden.

It was small, but it was marvelous. I used to grow pineapple sage and five kinds of rosemary. I used to haul armfuls of French lavender into the kitchen, dropping little purple blossoms on the floor along the way like a flower girl in a Pagan wedding. I used to put geranium cuttings in an old, earthenware vase and place it on the kitchen counter. Then, after a week or two, I'd plant them in the garden.

I used to feel somewhat smug about my white roses.

I used to open the Burpee catalog and actually consider purchasing heirloom moonflower seedlings. I used go to the Huntington Garden sales, browse the abundant selection along the tree-lined path with other smiling plant lovers in straw hats, feeling just like a subject in Seurat painting. Later, lovingly, I would place local succulents into Mexican clay pots, and top them with a few river rocks.

I used to point out to visiting friends that I had monkey grass in the flower beds, but not just any monkey grass, I had "black dragon" monkey grass, and I even knew its official name. (Ophiopogon planiscapus Arabicus.) Okay, so the black monkey grass was planted by the previous homeowner but it was otherworldly cool, and it was now mine and I had managed not to kill it even after several years in the house with a high needs preschooler who never napped.

Well, it's been a busy year and something just had to give. Now, someone else has taken over the gardening. I've got to hand it to her ... she's great with the digging part of it. There's no need for that Smith & Hawken rototiller with Misty around. And, although misguided, she enriches the garden daily, even though she seems to think the brick patio is what needs fertilizing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dr. Heidegger's Experimental Sidewalk

Even stamping it in pavement can't change its transitory time with us. I wonder who tried? I wonder who attempted to retain it, right there in old cement?

I know, it's just somebody's name. It's a signature for whoever poured the foundation of the now old house that was, back then, young. But maybe Ponce de León was just a few centuries early and on the wrong coast. It's not a fountain of youth after all. It's a sidewalk.

And I'm going to linger on it every time I walk by.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cinema Seance

Is the Rialto haunted? You guys know I like to think it is. I like to think that late at night, the spirits of Chaplin, Keaton, Pabst, Hawks, Welles, Godard, Antonioni, Kubrick and Kurosawa all sit in the dark, screening each other's movies and talking about philosophy.

"Tragedy is a close-up," Keaton loves to say, "Comedy a long-shot."

"Yes," Kurosawa says. "And in a mad world, only the mad are sane."

" Ah, mes amis," Godard usually chimes in when things get too serious, "don't you realize that cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world?"

That's what I think happens. Late at night. In our beloved movie palace that sits locked up and seemingly lost.

I would love it if the Rialto served as a comfy hangout for ghosts. I just don't want the Rialto herself to become a ghost. There's still a lot of life left in her.

In case you missed it, you can read/see more about ghosts of the Rialto -- and other places in South Pas -- at my latest Halloween column and video montage at South Pasadena Patch.

For even MORE spooky and cool Halloween video -- check this out. Is it proof of time travel, back to a Charlie Chaplin movie premiere? You decide...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Low Tech Scary

The more you look around, the more you notice signs of little ghouls getting ready for their big night. I have a new column and video at South Pasadena Patch. Check it out for more Halloween, South Pas style -- and leave a comment! Patch is turning out to be a great place for discussion and dialogue.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halloween is Coming (Part 5)

I've always imagined ghosts living in the old Eddie Park mansion. In my mind, they're playful, sweet and a little reckless, just like Cary Grant and Constance Bennett in the Topper films. What do you think?

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Ever had one of those weeks where you find a South African brown widow spider with nest on your back door, get a property tax bill for twice as much as you were expecting, fret for three days tending a cranky daughter who has cold with fever, hear really sad news about an old friend, discover that your dishwasher is suddenly making noises that can only be described as a parrot trapped within and whistling the first few bars of Sentimental Journey, catch your daughter's cold, pass out asleep at 8:30 on a Friday night only to wake up with a headache at 1:30AM and the unsettling realization you haven't yet written your daily blog?

You too? Ah, that's comforting.

So look! Here's a pretty pathway next to a pretty gate with pretty plants and trees! (And a somewhat inexplicable, totally incongruous, teensie little picket fence -- but it's far too late and I'm way too much of a curmudgeon at this point to go into that thing.)

Friday, October 22, 2010


The door is locked. The curtains are drawn. The entrance hasn't been swept in a while -- you'll find a few outdated pages from the LA Weekly, a scratch-off lotto ticket, a beef jerky wrapper -- and someone scribbled a fairly unimaginative obscenity on one of the black tiles.

But that awning makes me think this place still has some sass. She's not victimized or beaten down. The old girl is still wearing her red lipstick.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


"In a real dark night of the soul," F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, "it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day." Scott knew a little something about living in Southern California. That inner storms rage here, even though the skies remain mostly blue. That there are a lot of starry smiles masking ulterior motives. He understood the surprising vagaries of this place. He quickly figured out the weird duality of paradise. He dealt with it mostly through gin bottles, discovering the way a couple of drinks made everything funnier, but a slew of them brought torrents of sad, the kind of sad that never fit in with all the palm trees and sunshine.

There is a rumor that Fitzgerald once got thrown out of South Pasadena's Raymond hotel. The story goes that he got drunk and said the place had too many god damned flowers. The same story has also been attributed to Charlie Chaplin... someone else who understood the light and dark of this part of the world, and the way both are yin/yanged here forever. And if you live in Southern California long enough, you'll spend time on both sides. Not all of us reach for a gin bottle. Some of us just crawl under the covers, instead.

It rained in South Pas yesterday. It was a good day for a bad mood. It was a good day for huddling in one of the lighter, lovelier parts of Los Angeles -- one with all those (wonderful) god damned flowers. It was a good day for lurking inside within your shadow while nature rinsed away some of the outside grime.

Three o'clock in the morning? Yeah. Definitely. But this time just for one day.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Settings: Part 32

It's an alley so picturesque it makes me wish I had reason to make a film there. Something with Leonardo DiCaprio in a fedora. Something with a seductive French actress running from an obsessed detective. Something with a psychic homeless woman sitting on a Mexican blanket.

Wait a minute... I'm playing my own favorite game. And that means you all have to play along, too...

If this were the setting for a scene in a movie, what do you think would happen here?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Halloween is Coming (Part 4)

I imagine the conversation went something like this...

"Isn't it great?" He said.

She stalled. Reached for a cigarette.

"I asked you for a pumpkin," she said, "and you brought home a jack o lantern the size of a billboard..."

"The kids will LOVE it!"

"It's nine feet tall."

"They weren't going to sell it to me at first," he said, "but I made a deal. I thought nobody else would have something like this."

"Nobody else would want something like this."

He leaned against the RV. Grabbed one of the mini snickers bars out of the open bag on the dash.

"Where's your Halloween spirit?" He said.

She smiled. "I've got Halloween spirit," she said. "I'm scared."

"Scared of what?"

"Scared I married someone who brought home a nine foot plywood jack o lantern!"

He handed her one of the little Milky Way bars. Those were her favorite.

She took it.

"Ah hell," she said. "I guess the kids will love it."

"I knew you'd come around," he said. "Later, they're delivering the electronic zombies."

"The what?"

"Don't worry," he said, "I also rented a generator..."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Homes, Sweet Homes...

Tudor and Craftsman make grand neighbors on this stretch of El Centro. I can never decide which one I love the most. Even on cloudy days, these cheerful homes shine.

(For a darker view of South Pas, check out my latest column and video at South Pasadena Patch. You all know how much I love night prowling...)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Caption this photo (#43)

I love it ... but I've got nothing. Anyone else want to take a crack at captioning this one?

Friday, October 15, 2010

NOT just another brick in the wall...

The South Pasadena Unified School District Administration building has so many gorgeous details, like these whimsical multicolored bricks and stunning art nouveau decorative panels. The 1928 structure was built by the architectural firm of Marsh, Smith and Powell, the creative force behind the design of South Pasadena's original Public Library building as well as the Middle School. Once known as El Centro Elementary school, the building was converted to the administration HQ in 1979. That year, El Centro combined with Lincoln elementary and the newly joined student body voted to change the name to Arroyo Vista Elementary school.

You can still see vestiges of the old El Centro school as you walk around the administration building. The historic quarter-ton bronze school bell rests in the front lawn. But what I find more endearing are the little kid-sized porcelain water fountains mounted along the outside corridors. You have to lean pretty far down to get a drink, but when you do you can connect with the decades of South Pasadena children who learned to read and write within the walls of this lovely structure.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cracking Up

I often hear people complain about the cracks in South Pasadena streets and sidewalks. It's always the same cranky discussion with adjectives like outrageous and unacceptable. I guess I can see their point. I mean, nobody likes to trip over a sidewalk crack. In fact, my daughter gave herself a loose tooth stumbling over one on our street when she was three. But other than that, I'm a little fuzzy on all the consternation. I suppose driving over uneven pavement could make your car CD player skip, or test the validity of your automaker's claims of great suspension...

Yeah, I'm being a smart ass.

I happen to love the cracks, the same way I love the patina of my old leather jacket and the crazing of my antique teapot. I love the weathered history of those cracks. I love it that those cracks reveal the way trees have woven their roots under and around our town in a kind of latticed embrace. I love it that on streets with cracks, lead-footed drivers can't possibly speed as fast as they would in, say, San Marino -- where the roads are as smooth as a stretch of new laminate flooring.

Recently, South Pasadena repaved this street, evening out the undulating curb. I'm sure many homeowners are happy about it. I'm sure parking on those uneven surfaces was a challenge. But to me, it's a little like removing original, wooden, double-hung sash windows and replacing them with dual-paned vinyl. Actually, it feels a little like masking a lifetime of expression with Botox.

"It's through the cracks of our brain," Logan Pearsall Smith once wrote, "that ecstasy creeps in." I know we can't ignore function in the admiration of form. I understand repairs are sometimes necessary for safety reasons or drainage issues. But progress, unfortunately, is rarely very romantic. And in Southern California where new is regarded with a kind of religious fervor, I love the old stuff. Cracks and all.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Always in Fashion

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only," Coco Chanel once said. "Fashion is in the sky, in the street, the way we live." She might as well have been writing about South Pas real estate. There are so many gorgeous homes in South Pas -- and all so very differently adorned -- it's impossible to pick a best dressed. The Craftsman beauties certainly awe and inspire. They're grand examples of symmetry and clean lines, presenting naturally lovely faces to the street like the architectural equivalent of supermodels. The Tudors are regal and a little conservative -- dressed like grand old queens. Victorians coyly smile at their neighborhoods, dolled up in lacy finery, rouged and painted like porcelain dolls. Nearby, mid-century moderns play it cool in minimal, hipster chic while easygoing ranch style homes celebrate comfort with the ease of a well worn pair of Birkenstocks.

And then there are colorful bungalows like this one. They remind me of little girls playing dress up in their brightest party clothes. Houses like this make me want to put on a bright party dress, too. (And spin around on that green, green grass just to see my petticoats swirl.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Remembering my Friend

not insomnia exactly

(if I walk these sidewalks late enough
the ones you loved
the ones where you plucked the red hibiscus and wore it in your hair
perhaps I'll brush against the starfired edge of your memory
it lingers
as you linger
always always
in the night of me)

a waking dream
you are there

and yet I walk alone.

Monday, October 11, 2010

South Pasadena Patch is Here!

The No Smoking sign in the Kaldi window is a bit out of place for this photo, since the woman leaning against the wall is red-hot editor Sonia Narang. Sonia is the driving force behind South Pasadena Patch -- our town's brand new one-stop source of news, information and discussion. It launches today at 12:30PM Pacific Standard Time.

And guess what? Your faithful blogger is part of the team. You'll still be able to check in with me daily right here at GOSP, but I also have a weekly column at South Pasadena Patch called Views from the Front Porch.

I'm thrilled to be a part of the Patch family for a number of reasons. First, I'm excited that South Pas will finally have a daily, interactive, online news source covering all of the issues that are important to our community. Sonia has brought together a dedicated group of local professionals to cover everything from big-time breaking news to Little League scores. These journalists, photographers, writers and videographers aren't outsiders looking in. They are insiders reaching out. South Pasadena Patch will keep the community informed about the latest in our local government, our thriving art scene, city events, school issues, the Farmers Market and all of the interesting human interest stories that make our diverse community so special. It also includes a comprehensive city business directory, up-to-date restaurant reviews, a local events calendar and plenty of opportunities to leave unmoderated comments and feedback about everything published on the site. Best of all? Information is updated daily and goes online in minutes, not days.

You can find out all about Sonia's impressive background and vision for the site right here. She's an acclaimed reporter and video journalist who grew up in the San Gabriel Valley. She went on to cover stories all over the world from Colorado to Asia. But I have the inside scoop: Sonia once won a Japanese speech contest by discussing in Japanese her worldwide search for the absolute best slice of cake. I'm not sure where she eventually found it, but six years ago she traveled around the southern hemisphere by ship, visiting 16 countries. (That's a lot of cake!) Oh, and her favorite Beatles song is "I am the Walrus." She might not be "sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come" but you're sure to find her hanging around town with her camera and her laptop.

Now, on your lunch hour, everyone run on over to South Pasadena Patch and check it out. Remember, it goes live at 12:30PM PST. (You'll find me listed in the columns section if you scroll down the front page.)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Halloween is Coming (Part 3)

The spirits are restless at The Rialto. Can you blame them? For years they have haunted a glamorous relic, forgotten in an age of multiplexes, YouTube and 60 inch HDTVs. It's not just the ghosts of moviegoers past -- the children of the Depression whose nickles bought hope. It's not just the spectres of all those film icons -- Chaplin and Keaton, Pickford and Fairbanks, Brooks and Garbo and Deitrich and Wells, Valentino and Swanson and Bogart and Bacall -- the players who flickered and faded, whose magic infused a layer of pixie dust into the pile of those plush velvet seats. It's the phantom energy of so many dreams wished for within those elegant walls. Dreams of lives as pretty as the ones onscreen. Dreams of futures paved with stars, of heroic adventures on stormy seas, of love affairs so grand they could outlast war and famine. Those dreams still hover there, in that dusty old church of the everyman. They were dreams boosted by soaring musical scores and fueled by buttered popcorn. They were dreams shared in the dark with other dreamers.

Those spirits are restless. Can't you feel their presence when you walk past? Come back, they say. Come back and bring us back to life.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Whine and Cheese

So, you try to eat right.

Your mother probably taught you based on the beloved Four Food Groups model -- a guideline issued by the United States Department of Agriculture in the mid fifties -- with each meal emphasizing meat, whole fat dairy products, breads and a few vegetables or fruits. In the nineties, the government's suggestion morphed from a square of equal food categories into a triangle of dietary regulation: the official food pyramid. Fat was out. Carbs were in. So we eschewed our steaks, buttered potatoes and homemade pie for heaping plates of pasta with drizzled olive oil and Entenmann's fat-free cookies. But that didn't prove to be a recipe for health, and by end of the 20th century more Americans had obesity, heart disease and diabetes than back in the sixties when everyone was asking for seconds of Mom's meatloaf and gravy.

Dean Ornish says to give up all fats and you'll stave off or even reverse heart disease. That is, unless you end up with fatty acid deficiency and insulin resistance. Vegetarian experts say to eliminate all animal products and you'll give your body the perfect human diet. Until you find yourself deficient in protein, vitamin B12, iron, iodine and omega 3 fatty acids. Proponents of a Stone Age diet insist that we should avoid agricultural products and eat like our prehistoric hunter/gatherer ancestors ate -- lots of meat, fish, fowl, nuts, berries, fruits and veggies. Sounds good, except that when we hunt at the local grocery store we also gather genetically modified produce with pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls and recombinant bovine growth hormone.

Fish is good, right? Oops, there's the methylmercury contamination. Then how about soy? Natural health experts tell us it can wreck your thyroid and cause pancreatic dysfunction. Okay, then what about beans? Aren't beans an ideal food? Sure, except for that bisphenol-A lining the cans. Stir fried vegetables are healthy, aren't they? Nope, not if you consider the trans fats and cancer-causing acrylamide -- a by product of all fried food. Milk? Anti-dairy experts warn of dioxins, hormones and herbicides. Bottled juice? Nutritionists tell us to stay away from high fructose corn syrup.

Water. We can just drink water. But not if you listen to scientists who say that fluoride is more toxic than lead and only slightly less poisonous than arsenic. (Bottled water? Oncologists remind us that those plastic bottles might cause cancer. Oh, and the scientists chime in that a lot of bottled water is fluoridated.)

Sigh. I'm really getting tired of all this advice from all these health experts. In fact, all these health experts are making meal time a fairly large bummer, which can't be good for anyone's mental health.

So, I have some advice of my own: have the chili cheese fries from Hi-Life Burgers. They're filled with enough animal fat, cholesterol and glutamate to make Sanjay Gupta break out in hives, But I can play the statistics game too. Am I an expert? Well, yes, actually. I'm quite the expert on chili cheese fries. So here goes:

The potatoes have heart-healthy potassium and magnesium, not to mention vitamin C, phosphorous and zinc. Cheese offers bone protection with much-needed calcium. Plus, there's a little-known Danish study which found that men who ate 1 ounce of full fat cheese every day for three weeks had no increase in their LDL cholesterol. Now, for the chili. Well... that beef is loaded with iron and something called conjugated linoleic acid which numerous studies have shown reduces incidences of cancer and suppresses growth of existing cancer.

Most important, the chili cheese fries are delicious. They're the kind of ooey-gooey tasty that just makes you happy. And happiness causes a cascade of positive body responses from hormone balance to endorphin release. In fact, a substantial Mexican study has shown that happy people are more likely to have better immune systems and live longer than unhappy people, regardless of other medical factors.

Chili cheese fries as a health food? Maybe not. But I sure felt better after eating them.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Behind the Window

A rocking chair, maybe. And a beat up Duncan Phyfe side table. (There might be a Blackberry on it, but it's turned off.) Maybe a little Debussy is playing, there is possibly a hint of something roasting with rosemary and garlic. Tea is a good idea, but wine is better. The stack of mail can wait, but someone needs to feed the cat.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fall Foliage, South Pas Style (#5)

Sure, there is a maple tree nearby dropping the expected seasonal debris. But looking at this beats raking leaves...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Red Rover

I wish I had a more elegant background for this mack daddy red Cadi, but even without luxe surroundings, this car could make you feel like a million bucks.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Halloween is Coming (Part 2)

There's got to be a great ghost story associated with this old place. And if there isn't one, there should be. (Anyone care to chime in?)

Sunday, October 3, 2010


"In making theories, always keep a window open so that you can throw one out if necessary."

--Bela Lugosi

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Halloween is Coming

I don't know which is more scary: the fact that I will need about 25 bags of candy to handle the onslaught of trick or treaters, or the fact that I will have already eaten about 5 bags all by myself before the end of the month...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Graffiti, South Pas Style

Today is the first of the month, and that means Theme Day for participating City Daily Photo bloggers. Today's theme is Graffiti.

I know, I know. What makes me think I can sneak in a cute little snapshot of children's sidewalk doodles into a photo collection that is supposed to represent hard core urban street art? Sure, we're part of Los Angeles. We are minutes away from plenty of examples of real graffiti. But in South Pas, most of the tagger crews are in elementary school, happily armed with multicolored chalk, limitless imagination and street after street of blank canvas to bombard with wild style...

I think Keith Haring would approve.

For more examples of worldwide graffiti, check out today's images posted by my fellow City Daily Photo bloggers. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants