Tuesday, November 30, 2010


It may be cold outside for Southern California, but it's still pretty nice to hang out in the sunshine at one of our parks. And, hey, while we're on the subject of hanging out at local parks... check out my latest column at South Pasadena Patch.

UPDATE: Thanks, LAist, for the lovely nod to this column today.

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like...

While I was out taking pictures yesterday afternoon, Santa's elves were busy in the house. (Or maybe Little Bit and Jon were just feeling particularly festive...)

So, how many days do you think it will last before someone just has to take a bite out of it?

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Brisk winds. Rain showers. Nights in the upper 30s. I actually wore my coat outside for two days in a row.

It might not be this, but for Southern California it sure feels like winter.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Caption this photo (#47)

I think it's safe to say that I've got nothing for this one. Thanksgiving wore me out, I'm fresh out of interesting post ideas, and sometimes you just gotta go with a picture of a scary doll left on the floor near the bathroom. (Trust me. You do NOT want to run into this in the middle of the night. Shudder.)

Have at it, guys...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Loved Ones

You don't have to hang out with San Gabriel Valley bloggers much to figure out that we're a crowd who loves our animals. We've read all about Pasadena Adjacent's miraculous cat Tova. We've followed Petrea's sweet Boz on walks everywhere from Hahamonga to Cal Tech. I think everyone who keeps up with Karin, our beloved Altadena Hiker, has fallen in love with her dogs Albert and Phoebe. Recently, Karin introduced her readers at Altadena Patch to a certain little pooch with an irresistible underbite who was waiting (and waiting... and waiting) to be adopted at the Pasadena Humane Society. Pepe's story struck a nerve with people around the world who kept checking in to see if he had found a family of his own yet. A few weeks went by, and we all started to worry. Everyone knows that despite any shelter's best efforts, at some point there comes an end of the line.

When Karin finally let us know that Pepe had found a home, I could almost hear the collective cheering. I certainly let out a few whoops of my own, before grabbing my own furry little monsters, snuggling their velvety ears, and thinking for the million-zillionth time how much better life is with little four-legged creatures about. Ones that always love you. Ones that you always love even when they dig up your flower beds or throw up a hairball on your favorite quilt.

According to the ASPCA, "approximately 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and approximately 3 million to 4 million are euthanized (60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats). Shelter intakes are about evenly divided between those animals relinquished by owners and those picked up by animal control. These are national estimates; the percentage of euthanasia may vary from state to state." Statistics like this make animal lovers like me feel an indescribable despair. The ASPCA also informs us that "five out of ten dogs in shelters and seven out of ten cats in shelters are destroyed simply because there is no one to adopt them."

Misty and Molly, the photogenic pooches in today's picture, came from an unwanted litter of puppies. Mirabelle, the extremely elegant cat you might remember, was from an unwanted litter of kittens. I suppose you can say that Jon and I rescued them. But, in reality, they are the ones who rescue us. Elizabeth Barrett Browning once wrote about her cocker spaniel that "his ears were often the first thing to catch my tears." She summed it up well. There is no amount of bad news, bad health or bad moods that can't be improved by a wagging tail or a loud purr.

After my father passed away, I remember sitting on the back porch with Misty and Molly on either side of me. There is a moment after losing someone so dear to you that you just think you might implode from the vacuum it creates inside. I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't even want to think about it. I remember sitting there for a long time, just feeling the warmth of those big, wonderful dog bodies beside me. Misty had her head in my lap. Molly just kept staring at my face before getting up, wandering into the yard and coming back to me with her favorite bone. Usually, I had to engage in a bit of tug-o-war to get that thing out of her mouth, but on this day, she dropped it right at my feet. I don't think I had a better offer of condolence.

Several years later, when I was on bed rest for 7 weeks with preterm labor, it was Mirabelle who sat on the bed with me, day after day, night after night, only leaving to eat and visit her cat box. When I'd feel contractions and start to panic about delivering a premie, Mirabelle would snuggle up closer and calm me down. When the baby would kick, Mirabelle would often lift up her head, move closer, and gently put her paw on my belly.

We may have given these critters a house to live in, but they have helped make it a home. The joy that these fuzzy rascals have brought to my family is not something that can be adequately expressed in words. Words are too human. Animals know better than words. But animals -- especially all those waiting in shelters -- also need us to speak for them. Karin's column today at Altadena Patch is a great place to start.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Tradition

It's the Allee household's annual turkey cookie baking time again! Last year, Little Bit added a peacock cookie to the flock. This year she asked if they could all be peacock cookies.

"Mommy," she said. "There aren't any turkeys walking around South Pasadena. What do turkeys have to do with anything?"

Monday, November 22, 2010

So Close

It was a perfect Model T. One I hadn't seen before. It was moving slowly, with no other cars on the road. I pulled into a red zone, scrambled with my point-and-shoot and ... sneezed. Which is why you see a slightly blurry, slightly scary image of me in the car side mirror instead of another lovely photo to add to our GOSP collection of South Pasadena vintage cars.

I'm losing my touch.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Storms and Lights

Ordinarily, rainy weather makes me feel poetic and snuggly. Yesterday, for whatever reason, all of the soggy gray just bummed me out. I'm tempted to post a Sylvia Plath poem or link to some naval-gazing mid-90s trance music on YouTube.

I am resisting the urge to compare the fall season's chilly drizzle with middle age and its inbetween-ness -- not exuberantly, flowery summer hot, but not yet settled into winter's clarity. Just dull and irritating...

Because that would be as obnoxious as all of that mid-90s trance music.

So, instead I'll just post a picture of Jasleen's mosaic lamps. They're bright and lovely in any weather -- and I'm sure there's some uplifting symbolism in there somewhere.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Winter is Coming

Yesterday's chilly weather and cloudy skies definitely made if feel more like the end of November...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Off My Back

I've raved about Ellen's Silkscreening before -- and I must add, that since then I have had the pleasure of hanging out with Ellen Daigle (the Ellen behind Ellen's,) and she is as cool as her shop.

This sign on her store window got me to thinking about T-shirts, and how they really do tell stories. When I look through my own T-shirt drawer it's like a scrapbook of my past. There are the well-worn Solidarność and Divest Now! shirts from my picket line walking, sign waving college years. There's one from The Who's farewell tour in 1983. My high school boyfriend and I went to Dallas to see that one. Sadly, we had to sit through the opening act of Billy Squire. Then, there's yet another shirt from yet another Who farewell tour in 2000. That one was at the Hollywood Bowl. I had box seats -- a perk from clients still flush from the Dot.com boom years.

There are all the ones from so many other concerts, they could be the wearable liner notes from the soundtrack of my youth: REM, U2, Guns and Roses, The Smiths, The The, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Tori Amos, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day, Coldplay. There are all the snarky ones that say things like "Will Write for Food" and "Read a %^$&ing Book!" There's the one with a picture of Tinkerbell and the word "believe" almost completely worn away. (But I still know it's there.) There's my old orange Lifeguard tank top. There's the charity red one from the Gap a few years ago that says Inspi(red). There's one I love to wear when I'm out with my husband because it says "I love my geek." There's the 1980 "Reelect Carter" shirt I wore when I was too young to vote but I bribed my 18 year old friend Marty to vote against Reagan. There's my "Friend of Bill" shirt from Clinton's second term. Then, there's the one with Nader's name on it. And finally the one that says "Apathy, Apathy, that's our cry, A P A... oh, whatever."

There are several with Little Bit's picture.

There's one Jon made for me that has "Sweetiepea" embroidered on it. There's another one he gave me with the famous portrait of Che Guevara. And then there is my personal favorite -- one worn on many nights with ratty PJ pants -- a pink t-shirt with a picture of Pussyfoot, my very favorite Looney Tunes character.

There's one missing from my drawer, one I never should have let my friend Machaela borrow back in 7th grade ... the Frampton Comes Alive concert T-shirt with 3/4 baseball jersey sleeves. (She never gave it back. I'm still not over it.)

What about you? Do your shirts tell your story? If so, what do they say?

Thursday, November 18, 2010


As I compose today's post, this helicopter is still circling South Pasadena. At 3:15 PM yesterday, I noticed it hovering near Orange Grove Park. I had planned on taking Little Bit to the playground before dinner, but the loud speaker warned citizens to stay indoors. Then, I heard words that reminded me of when I used to see police helicopters a lot -- back when I lived in Venice Beach and Hollywood. "Come out with your hands up," the officer in the helicopter said, "and you won't be harmed."

Not such a good day for a park trip.

The Pasadena Police and South Pasadena Police departments were/are looking for suspects involved in a jewelry store robbery in Pasadena. Several have been apprehended, but more are still at large. You can read all about it here at South Pasadena Patch.

May I just add that it is so nice to finally have a local news source with up-to-the-minute reporting on exactly what is happening in South Pasadena. (And I'm pretty darned lucky to be writing a column for this great website!) Editor Sonia Narang was on this story within minutes of the helicopter going up, making updates as she gained more information. Local photo journalist James F. Carbone included some incredible shots of arrests being made and SWAT teams walking with guns drawn through South Pasadena yards.

Scary stuff, but glad to have a savvy local media outlet giving us the scoop as it becomes a scoop, and letting us in on details that directly affect our community.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Melancholy Kaldi

I hope you're not sick of these iPhone shots with my mono-plus-red filter. Something about a cloudy day and those red signs made me grab my camera, er, I mean my phone and try to capture a mood -- winter approaching, time passing, coffee cooling off, I don't know. At any rate, here's another one straight from the phone.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Close Up

I love the front door of the Eddie Park house. It's just so cinematic. And speaking of cinematic, check out my latest column at Patch, which should be posted sometime before lunch Pacific Daylight Time. It's all about filming in South Pasadena. (See? I'll bet you all thought I was going to ask you to play the "if this were a setting in a movie, what would happen here" game. Well, now that you mention it...)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Who me? Jealous?

One of these days I'll discuss the wonders of Great Harvest Bread Company -- although, someone with a wheat allergy reviewing a bakery is kind of like an alcoholic reviewing a bar -- but I'm too exhausted to discuss much of anything since I've been sick for two weeks and I am starting to feel like one of those characters in a Victorian novel. You know the ones: wrapped up in a blanket, stretched out in a wicker chaise lounge on a sun porch, meekly coughing into a lace hanky. Well, actually, I'm about as meek as a rabid armadillo and I'm not coughing into a lace hanky, I'm hacking into enough tissues to send a team of angry environmentalists over here to admonish me for depleting all those trees in the rain forest. My neighbor said she found out that strep is going around South Pas. I think I managed to get it on top of the cold I caught from Little Bit and now it is time for a throat culture, a large vat of penicillin and possibly a sledgehammer to put me out of my misery.

It's clear that, unlike your cranky blogger, the lovely women in this photograph were feeling healthy and happy, enjoying Sunday's Indian Summer weather while noshing on homemade baked goodies. I'm just enough of a sickly curmudgeon to be irritated by them.

So, what did you guys do this weekend?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

As Time Goes By

Oh, when I see these glorious old automobiles parked around town, they look just like time travelers. They lounge against curbs the way Veronica Lake leaned against a bar. The sunlight sparkles from their fenders like the glint flashed from Barbara Stanwyck's anklet in Double Indemnity. They're more than cars, they're the steel and chrome relics of a past we can no longer visit. Like the elusive Maltese Falcon, they're "the stuff that dreams are made of..."

And you're telling me they actually need gas? That they don't run on the internal combustion of 1940s femme fatales and timing of classic Bogart quotes? They aren't really apparitions materializing from a former era -- not noir joyriders from an alternative monochrome dimension? I'm supposed to believe that they aren't driven by the spirits of Chandler and Cain but, instead, by a guy wearing Dockers and a shirt from the Gap? There's probably not even a flask in the glove box. Probably just the insurance and registration.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Black and White and Red all Over

The lofts by Mission Station really lend themselves to color desaturation down to black, white and red. When I saw this guy with shiny white shoes and red gloves strolling on a rainy day, I did a quick iPhone snap out of my car window. Here's the result, with a mono filter that leaves red tones. (Those bricks! That curb!)

I love accidental art. Or lucky art. Or just making up art as you go along.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Branching Out

In South Pasadena, we love our trees so much we even let them grow in the street.

Many of you have probably noticed these lovely old oaks happily obstructing traffic in the middle of the private section of Chelton Way. But most of you probably don't know their controversial story...

Back in 1907, the area had been subdivided into what was known as the Ellersbie Park Tract by a wealthy woman named Carolyn Dobbins. She had spent a holiday at South Pasadena's posh Raymond Hotel. One day, while looking out over the expanse pastoral land surrounding the hotel, Mrs. Dobbins noticed the thicket of oak groves. She decided she was going to buy the parcel of land, leave her hometown of Philadelphia and move her family to South Pasadena to build a house in a paradise shaded by magnificent trees. The trees you see in this photograph are remnants of Mrs. Dobbins' dream landscape -- and designated as Cultural Heritage landmarks.

But that's not the best part of the story. Back in 1950, sweet, upstanding South Pasadena got a jump start on 1960s rebellion by fighting a spirited battle to save several of Mrs. Dobbins' other oak trees. The ones in question happened to be growing in the middle of Edgewood Drive. South Pasadena city government deemed the trees a "menace." The City Manager at the time called them a traffic hazard, "obstructions," with "no place in a modern community." The government wanted change. The residents wanted their trees, believing they were integral, valuable parts of South Pasadena. They wanted to keep them right where they were.

After heated City Council meetings, with passionate pleas made by numerous citizens, the council inexplicably made the decision to save two of the trees -- but cut down a third.

This is where things got interesting. One would think our kindly, rule-abiding townspeople would have accepted the compromise. Instead, when city workers showed up with their saws and a city ordinance granting permission to remove the hundred year old oak, they ran across a mob of angry townspeople. I am not sure if there were any pitchforks, but public record reported an automobile blockade, at least one snarling dog and a less-than-cordial group of men, women and children waving sticks, brooms and rolling pins.

"There is too much useless destruction going on in the world these days," one South Pas resident told a reporter for The Review. "...in a small way we're fighting for the same things our boys in Korea are fighting for. The maintenance of freedom and the carrying out of the wishes of the majority." Another anonymous resident wrote a letter to The Review in the form of a poem:

I think that I shall never see
A Council lovely as a tree.

The tree brings beauty to the town.
The Council orders it chopped down.

The writer concluded his Joyce Kilmer homage with this couplet:

Laws are made by men like these
But only God can make the trees.

The mid century treehuggers' story went 1950s viral -- gathering interest across the nation and symbolizing a group of ordinary people standing up against a government that didn't listen to its citizens. Telegrams and letters of support arrived from all over the country. "Save the trees!" They said. "Axe the City Council!"

After so much national coverage, the city government backed down and the trees were spared. While the beautiful old trees that stirred up such a debate eventually died of natural causes, their younger siblings on Chelton Way still thrive as reminders of South Pas heritage, preservation and, yes, proud symbols of ass-kicking rebellion. Right here in our polite little town.

For more on the great tree controversy, as well as other amazing stories about South Pasadena's past, you can't beat Jane Apostol's definitive South pas history book, South Pasadena 1888-1988 A Centennial History Second Edition with Chronology: 1988-2008. For more on Jane, you can take a look back at my interview with her from last year.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Monday, November 8, 2010

There's a metaphor in here somewhere...

...but I'm fresh out of cleverness and I've been sick for over a week.

When Little Bit was home sick last week, we had to come up with a lot of "fun" things to do inside all day. I put that fun in quotes because there is nothing, repeat, nothing fun when you are ill and stuck in the house. Add a sick five-year-old to your own sick-in-the-house mix and the word fun becomes a taunting little monster, forcing you to remember those halcyon days when fun actually meant doing something fun, not just coming up with anything, anything, to keep two feverish family members busy. The only creatures having any fun last week were all those little bits of virus staging a rave in my upper respiratory tract for days on end, finally crashing in my laryx where the little suckers stole my voice and have not bothered to give it back.

But back to finding things to do while quarantined in the house, just me and my poor ailing child. After the first dozen Disney and Pixar movies, about ten rounds of Hi-Ho Cherry-O and enough exploration on Jumpstart to risk having a video game induced seizure, Little Bit and I moved to the old school standby of lining up dominoes and knocking them down.


It's a good thing we have such a great house to be trapped in. And speaking of great houses, I'd appreciate it if you would have a look at my latest column and video on South Pasadena Patch. (It should be up sometime before lunch.) It's all about the many wonderful places to live in South Pas. The kindly Patch powers-that-be are letting me produce photo slideshows to accompany my articles. And that really IS fun. (Even with laryngitis.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

As it grows wiser and older...

I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.

--Robert Frost

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010

My Sentiments Exactly

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. Or in this case, a couple of dozen questions...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Through the Glass: Brightly

My longtime friends here will recognize this window.

I've snuck it into this blog a few times before. While I love so many things about my house, I rarely get a chance to hang out in this room. It's where most of the books are. Someday we'll get around to having someone build custom bookcases to match our home's original mahogany built-ins in the next room. But for now, our Ikea particleboard shelves manage those hundreds (and hundreds) of volumes just fine. We call the room The Library, although it it's a mighty highfalutin name for a 10 by 14 foot space that doubles as our guestroom.

When we moved in, we put one of those dark wood frame futons in there. You know, one like everyone had in an apartment at some point in the nineties, the kind that folds up into a couch. It was a leftover from younger days -- a placeholder until we found the distinguished leather sofa that would so perfectly suit a room called The Library. But when our first guest arrived and we pulled the futon out to make a bed, we never folded it back because there are few things more wonderful than a well-stocked library, but a well-stocked library with a bed in it is right up there.

Life is a little too hectic (and Little Bit is a little too much of a handful) for much stretching out in The Library With a Bed in It. But we've all been under the weather around here, and there has been a lot of stretching out in the last few days. While stretching, I noticed, again, the comfort of little familiar objects ... the ones we get so used to seeing we don't even really see them anymore. I love objects. And so does our local poet friend Linda Dove, whose book (one of the hundreds in this room) In Defense of Objects pays a sort of homage to the meditative loveliness of stuff. It's the stuff of our lives that accumulates and turns shelves and tables into little alters of us. And since I'm not a religious person, it's a place like this -- with treasured stuff, and piles of books, and those I love nearby -- that comes closest to being my version of holy.

The stuff on this table always makes me smile. It's flanked by a couple of those Ikea bookcases, in front of a window that catches the most incredible morning light. The old moon clock doesn't sound an alarm, it just glows brighter and brighter -- supposedly waking you up in a more natural way than with some kind of electronic chime. Well, it never once woke me up. But it did once shake me up, in a happy way, when I was using the second hand to time two minutes on the pregnancy test that told us our Little Bit was on the way. The phone isn't old, but it looks it, and makes a great Philip Marlowe-worthy brrrrrring when someone calls. There are a few novels on the table that I like to have handy. One was written by a friend. One written by someone I wish could have been a friend. There is a little book of sonnets. There is also a big layer of dust. And although not evident in this picture, there is a sleeping cat who has decided the bed belongs to her.

Years ago, I found those lace curtains at an estate sale. The woman had been some fabulous old Hollywood bit player in the early 30s. I loved the lace, but never had a window the right size to put them in. Until this house, this window.

So, I like looking at this window. It's a reminder of how life can surprise you by suddenly bringing you to just the right spot. It's one of those Hallmark card metaphors about fitting in and feeling at home. And it's also a just great place to read a good book, or recover from a bad cold. (Or blog in a daily blog when you've got nothing else to blog about.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Look! Pretty!

Your faithful blogger is still sick. So, um, here's a nice view from Monterey Hills. I've dragged my camera to this position many times, but for those of you who might not have enjoyed this particular vantage point, I'll offer a little tour. Forget trying to spot the Arroyo, it sneaks along beneath the trees. Crossing the Arroyo is Pasadena's historic Colorado Street Bridge, there on the left. (I just can't bring myself to use its common nickname of Suicide Bridge. The beautiful structure is far too romantic for that.) The Richard H. Chambers Court of Appeals is right of center. The Spanish Colonial Revival building dates back to 1920, with additions made in 1930. It was once one of the region's most prestigious resorts, the Vista del Arroyo Hotel. During World War 2, the War Department acquired the property and turned it into McCormack Army Hospital. It housed a variety of federal agencies for decades before being designated Pasadena's Court of Appeals.

Our beloved San Gabriel Mountains are lost in a cloudy haze, but then again, so am I.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Well I'm hot blooded, check it and see...

Remember my glowing words about how delighted we were to move here for the divine South Pasadena Public School system? Well, this is the fifth virus poor Little Bit has brought home to our family since school started in September and I've caught every one. Including another one last week that we were barely through sniffling with. I'm ready to move to a compound for a life that would make Howard Hughes have said, "hey, dude, don't be so paranoid." Little Bit is almost over the latest, just in time for me to catch it. I don't remember having a fever of 103 since I was a kid. But hey, I haven't had my husband sing a Foreigner song to me in, like, ever.

Kindergarten is not a classroom. It is a petri dish. With crayons.

I did not need a Halloween costume. I was Zombie Mother from Hell. In bed with the chills. Feeling about as good natured as, well, I don't know. But Joan Crawford would have played the role.

I have a brand, spankin' new column and video up at South Pasadena Patch today, sometime around 10:00 AM. It's all about Mission Street. At least I think it is. I'm delirious and I swear I might have included something about psychedelic monkeys. Please read it and comment. I'm sick, here!