Saturday, December 31, 2011

Shameless New Year's Eve Post

Here's to clean slates and new beginnings, y'all!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Time Portal

I have a soft spot for old-school late 20th Century garage doors. Maybe it's because I grew up in Texas in the 70s and early 80s. Those garage doors were as ubiquitous to my neighborhood as Craftsman houses are to South Pasadena.
I watched a lot of cute boys jamming with their bands inside garages like this. More than one shaggy-haired guitar player stole my heart while covering old T-Rex and Bowie under fluorescent tube lights. I kissed the cute guy who moved from Hawaii in the 10th grade in a garage like this. I had my first lukewarm beer tapped from a keg in a garage like this.
Most of my late night whispered telephone conversations happened in a garage like this: my parents' garage. I would perch on a paint can, giggling to my best friend Mary with the kitchen wall phone cord stretched through the back door and pulled around the front of my mom's Cordova...
I'm sure the teenagers walking through the book stalls in Paris have the same confusing/mad/wonderful dreams as those of us who grew up hanging out in garages. We're not so different. In fact, I remember arguing with Paul from my drama club about whether Godard or Truffaut was the better French New Wave director, all while leaning against his dad's workbench in a garage like this. It's not a grand setting that makes youth so grand. After all, the setting is just the launch pad for where we eventually end up. (Which, more often than not, turns out to be an awful lot like where we started out.)
I know, I know. Garage doors like this don't call for a Gershwin soundtrack. They don't inspire the same homespun nostalgia as picket fences or porch swings. But for those of us who cut our teeth on the edges of American suburbs, garage doors like this are familiar touchstones. They welcome us right back into our past, with or without the remote control.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

a pull at his rein and a toss of his mane...

Oh, a wonderful horse is the Fly-Away Horse -
Perhaps you have seen him before;
Perhaps, while you slept, his shadow has swept

Through the moonlight that floats on the floor.
For it's only at night, when the stars twinkle bright,
That the Fly-Away Horse, with a neigh
And a pull at his rein and a toss of his mane,
Is up on his heels and away!
The Moon in the sky,
As he gallopeth by,
Cries: "Oh! what a marvelous sight!"
And the Stars in dismay
Hide their faces away
In the lap of old Grandmother Night...

--Eugene Field

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Train in Motion

The only way to be sure of catching a train is to miss the one before it.

--Gilbert K. Chesterton

Friday, December 23, 2011

Make a Wish

I didn't notice the shooting star when I took this long-exposure shot on St. Albans Drive (aka: Christmas Tree Lane!) in San Marino last night. I guess it's just another Christmas miracle...

(Do be sure to make the quick drive over to see the majestic pines decked out in their holiday finery. I was delighted to see that it appears all of the beautiful trees survived the recent windstorm.)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cookies Galore

The Allee holiday cookie tradition continues! Here is one batch of Christmas tree ornament sugar cookies. (Not shown is Little Bit's menorah cookie. She just had to eat that one. Also, the blue and purple abstract one in the upper right is supposed to be a Diwali elephant. Hey, we celebrate ALL winter festivities around here!)

Next into the oven? Gingerbread people. (And possibly a couple of gingerbread parrots as requested by Little Bit.)

So, what's everyone eating during the holiday season?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Vote for South Pasadena's Most Festive House! is launching a nationwide contest to find the best holiday home, and the winner's school district will receive $100,000!  I say we make the hard work of South Pasadena's own Todd Shroeder pay off.  Every year he turns his home into an electric gingerbread house -- that is, if gingerbread houses had animatronic Santas waving from the porch.  

It's glorious, it's magical and it just might net our school district some cash.  

Find out more and VOTE right here

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Blurry Parrot

I give up.  

I told myself I wouldn't post one of my close-up wild parrot shots until I actually managed to get one that was tack sharp.  

It's impossible! I either need a new telephoto lens or a steadier hand.  (Or both.)  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Perhaps I'm being too literal...

Art can only be truly art by presenting an adequate outward symbol of some fact in the interior life.

--Margaret Fuller

Friday, December 16, 2011

Abstract Sky After Thunderstorm

I got caught in the freak thunderstorm that passed over yesterday. As the clouds broke up, the sunlight painted a few amazing pictures in the sky. For the briefest of moments, this is what I saw out of my car window while sitting at a light on Mission.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Art: Blooming

Public Art is a superb way of getting students involved in taking ownership of their future surroundings!

-Dave Schofield

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mission Street: Wide View

I always find something new and interesting when I shop on Mission. (This time, the new and interesting thing was this vantage point from right in front of Great Harvest Bread.)

Monday, December 12, 2011


South Pasadena is still discovering the tree casualties of recent hurricane-force winds. Many damaged trees that didn't fall during the storm are now awaiting removal. (Sigh.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas on Wheels

Fa la la la la la la la la!

(Full disclosure: I found this old beauty just a few yards over the border in San Marino.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


The hurricane-force winds toppled giant trees all over town, and yet this little pomegranate managed to stay securely attached to its branch.

What a lovely symbol -- and natural ornament -- as we head into the holiday season.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I figured we could all use a break from power outage updates and pictures of destruction. How's this for a beautiful bird's eye view from Pasadena looking toward South Pas? (And just look at those hundreds upon hundreds of beautiful trees still standing tall and strong!)

All together now: ahhhhhhhhhh...

Monday, December 5, 2011

One of Many

Walking through Garfield Park yesterday was a complete shock. Our shady central oasis is considerably less shady, with at least six trees toppled, awaiting the chainsaw and wood chipper.

Yes, many of the park's trees still stand. (This one is fine.) For that, I am glad. But with each passing day, I find another landscape dramatically changed and it's starting to wear down my nerves. The tree in this picture crashed right on top of the picnic table where Little Bit and I loved to have after school snacks. It's unsettling and creepy and sad.

I think it will take me a while to process the loss of so many San Gabriel Valley trees. (The loss of these were bad enough.) Maybe it will be easier when things get cleaned up. I've never been one for viewing open caskets, and seeing all these fallen trees feels a little bit like staring at corpses. I'd rather remember them as they were, and celebrate the ones still standing.

Our power finally came back on yesterday, but I know many South Pas residents are still hunkered down in the cold. For updates, check the Southern California Edison map here, and Patch updates here.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Play Through

South Pasadena's Arroyo Seco Golf Course was hit pretty hard by the windstorm. There are several other giant trees uprooted near this one. (I'm not sure how it affects the par for this hole.)

Power is still out for a large portion of South Pasadena residents -- including yours truly. Here's hoping things get back to normal soon. For status updates on power outages in South Pas, click here.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


I know it's not Darfur. It's not Somalia or Iraq. It's not Katrina or Fukushima or the World Trade Center. I know our own Station Fire destroyed so much more. I know.

We're very lucky. I know for the most part that structures did not topple. It wasn't human lives ripped apart. We didn't have damage from bombs or bullets. It could have been so much worse. I know, I know.

But I also know that we dearly loved all those uprooted trees. We loved the way they shaded us. We loved the way they turned our hectic urban jungle into a beautiful urban forest. Like contemporary pagans, we don't just like the landscaping -- we love the company of trees. When one falls, we feel it like the loss of a spiritual cousin. When hundreds of trees are lost, it starts to feel like there is some kind of rift in the rightness of things.

While I'm grateful that most trees were spared, I've seen so many fallen ones in South Pas and Pasadena in the last few days, I feel shaken. Familiar landscapes are changed and I can't pretend that I won't miss what used to be. And one thing is for certain: the Christmas tree lots with all those chopped-down trees seem a bit ghoulish now.

Friday, December 2, 2011


"Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and, just as the reliably long and bitter winters of New England determine the way life is lived there, so the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The wind shows us how close to the edge we are."

--Joan Didion

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight.

--Raymond Chandler

(More on all of this when power is restored.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Today is the first day of the month, and that means it's Theme Day for participating City Daily Photo bloggers. This month's theme is Action Shots.

I'm not sure why I decided to post this picture. It's not particularly action-y in the just-caught-the-football or running-and-about-to-miss-the-train kind of way. But it is a quick snap of the normal, everyday action on Mission Street. And anyway, there just has to be a story behind that guy waving at a headless mannequin in a window. A secret sign from a spy to a hidden action hero? You decide.

For worldwide interpretations of this month's theme, be sure to check out my brilliant fellow City Daily Photo bloggers. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Shadows and Light

The afternoon light through my old water glass windows makes these wonderful shadows on the wall.

Simple, everyday things. So beautiful ... and always there if you just pay attention.

I am reminded of the old poem by William Carlos Williams. It has been repeated so much, it has almost lost its original message. (But not quite.)

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Big Sky

Your faithful blogger just returned from a week in Austin where the vistas are big and the sunsets are dramatic. Not to be outdone, this Arroyo sunset welcomed me back to South Pas...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

outwalked the furthest city light

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

--Robert Frost

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pilgrim's Progress...

"Mommy, I have a problem."

"What is it?"

"I don't know how to count high enough to count all my blessings."

(Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


So what's on the menu this year, everyone?

(We won't be making that. But we will be making these.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Every year they sprout up in yards all over town like mushrooms: little orange and black signs with the cryptic letters of SPEF.

When I first moved here, I saw these signs and wondered what they meant, and why so many good people supported them. South Pasadena Exciting Friends? Silly Putty Exotic Fantasies? Some People Enjoying Fountains?

All good guesses, but no.

SPEF stands for the South Pasadena Educational Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charity designated by the South Pasadena Unified School District (SPUSD) as the official private fund-raising organization for the support of the district's educational programs. Donations to SPEF support all of the schools in South Pasadena, providing funds for academics, books, arts, technology, sports and much more.

'Tis the season for giving, and what better way to give than in support of our future?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gates (#7)

If you walk through the gates of the historic Baranger Studios today, you're probably seeing your CPA or ophthalmologist. Back in 1925, however, the site was home to makers of "electric motions for jewelry stores."

Electric what for what?

Jewelers went all out to be competitive in the original decade of bling. In order to lure more customers into their stores, they relied on mechanical displays that were as imaginative and quirky as the jazz age itself. It wasn't enough to have diamond bracelets worthy of Theda Bara. Those bracelets needed to be displayed with something like this or this.

Baranger Studios produced these wondrous machines from 1925-1959. It's just another example of South Pasadena's whimsical and unusual past. (You can read more about Baranger Studios here and here.)

And thus, I close the gate on my Week of South Pasadena gates. I definitely need to revisit this subject. There are so many more to explore!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gates (#5)

Today's Ostrich Farm is a collection of live/workspace loft condos ideal for artists, but back at the turn of the last century it was a destination so unusual, exciting and fun it has been called "the Disneyland of its day."
In 1896, The Cawston Ostrich Farm opened and quickly became a world-famous tourist attraction. In retrospect, it seems a little weird that people would travel from the far reaches of the globe in order to walk around a garden with 100 ostriches. Although, to be fair, the adult birds were over seven feet tall and the baby chicks were really, really cute.
Advertisements at the time boasted a bucolic setting "free from any boisterous element and strictly first-class." It only only cost a quarter to visit the farm, but the chic ostrich feather boas, capes, muffs and parasols at the gift shop could set you back more than a few dollars.
One of the highlights of a visit to the farm was the opportunity to feed an ostrich an orange picked from one of South Pasadena's many orchards. Imagine what happens when a large citrus fruit goes down a slender ostrich neck. Can you see it? It's a less-violent version of a snake eating a rodent. The fruit could take quite a while to make its way down and, apparently, watching it was considered great fun for the Victorian set.
Who am I to judge? Our generation made curling an Olympic sport!
Given the Ostrich Farm's famous past as well as its artistic present, I have to say: these gates need some serious improvement.
For a fantastic history of Cawston Ostrich Farm, check out our pal Petrea Burchard's article here. For some great historical shots and vintage postcards, click here.
This week, I take a look at some of South Pasadena's gates.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gates (#4)

Do these gates lead to the entire painted hillside? A magic kingdom? (Is there a house there at all, or just another dimension?)

Everyday objects as art? Why not? This week, join me as I take a look at a few of South Pasadena's prettiest gates.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gates (#3)

The problem with gates is that they hold in as much as they keep out. It's nice to think of keeping your life private -- building walls, tending hidden gardens, closing off the things beyond your control -- but it's also a bit lonely. (I should know. I tend to gate up and go into emotional lockdown when things get too hectic.) With gates come locks and with locks come keys and with keys come questions of who gets one, can it be copied and what happens if you lose it?
I once lived in an apartment that had an exterior gate with a padlock. If you got in the gate, you had to walk across a pretty big garden to reach my front door. There was no doorbell, no buzzer, no possible way to get my attention. If someone was coming to visit they'd arrange a time and I'd open the lock. Otherwise, it stayed closed and absolutely impenetrable.
It was great at first. There were no Jehovah's Witnesses early on Sunday morning. There were no kids selling magazine subscriptions for school fundraisers. Neighbors didn't bug me to borrow sugar and UPS guys didn't make me sign for someone else's Amazon box. There was absolutely no interruption of whatever it was that I found so important to be doing alone behind a padlock.
But after awhile I started to feel a little like Rapunzel. No interruptions meant, well, no interruptions. I had plenty of alone time in that place. I had lots of time to write the great American novel and learn to meditate -- neither of which I did. There was nothing spontaneous or unplanned. No trick-or-treaters, no Christmas carolers, no hopeful little ones holding Unicef donation cans for Jerry's Kids. There were no girl scouts to brighten a depressing day with lifesaving thin mints. No old boyfriends stopped by with flowers. No new friends introduced themselves.
Now, my family lives in a house with no front gate. Some days the doorbell rings six or seven times which delights my social butterfly daughter to no end, even if it's just a meter reader asking me to tie up the dogs in the back yard. We are utterly powerless to keep people from intruding and, oddly, it feels more cozy that way.
This week, I examine some of South Pasadena's more picturesque gates. (And possibly use the photos to get a little philosophical.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gates (#2)

Like all great gates, this one makes me wonder ... what on earth is back there?

It's a gate-crashing week here at Glimpses. Join me as I turn my camera on some of South Pasadena's more interesting gates.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gates (#1)

South Pasadena is a far cry from a gated community. Okay, there's that one weird fortress of a neighborhood near the high school. (I confess, I've never explored it. Could I even manage to sneak in without a passcode?) But the rest of the city is beautifully accessible.

That doesn't mean there aren't some mighty fine gates to admire and, in my case, photograph for all of you.

Here is one of the two historic Oaklawn portal gates. (You can read about the portals and see a wider shot here, and find out even more about the entire Oaklawn neighborhood here.)

Join me this week I take a look at some of South Pasadena's interesting and photogenic gates.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eddie Park: Monochrome

South Pas has always struck me as such a technicolor city. Lately, though, I've enjoyed revisiting familiar locations with an eye toward black and white. It definitely changes the tone of things. In fact, in this shot our happy little Eddie Park seems a bit too austere. (Quick! Somebody kick a red ball out there into the lawn!)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Art in the Ordinary (#2)

I've given up trying to eat all of the roasted pumpkin seeds left over from our four Halloween jack-o-lanterns. (I've decided to photograph them instead...)