Monday, January 31, 2011

Sun through the Showers

Yes, it really looked like this for a brief moment yesterday. (And I just happened to be driving around looking for something to photograph.)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A View from Oaklawn Bridge

(Clickety clack. Clickety clack. Clickety clack.)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter's Flowers

The flowering pear trees are blooming. Their white blossoms always show up in January and February as if they're emulating the nearby mountain snow. Soon, cherry trees will get all the attention. They're dramatic and beautiful, but I'm a sucker for the flowering pear. Any tree that decides to make flowers in the middle of winter is a rebel after my own heart.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Strip Mall in Monochrome

It could have just been a crummy sidewalk. Add a few arches, vines, wooden beams, pendant lamps, square tiles, silver tables, big splashes of sunlight... and voila! It's art! Right next to the laundromat.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Technology -- Old School Image

I've gone crazy. I've spent a fortune on cameras, lenses, editing software, laptops and computer memory. So what do I do? Take pictures with a retro camera app on my iPhone. I'm not the only one bitten by the iPhone camera bug, either. Former Cannes film festival prize winning director Park Chan-Wook shot his latest film Night Fishing with 10 iPhone 4s and no other cameras!

For more nostalgic shots, rhapsodic waxing, and even faux Super 8 video -- I'm kind of fond of my latest column at South Pasadena Patch. It should post sometime before lunch today.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Charlie's Coffee House

Arroyo-adjacent South Pas residents: this is your coffee house! Charlie's had its grand opening on January 15 and it's already making a big caffeinated splash with the westernmost residents of our fair city. The locally owned shop is in the newish circular brick and stucco building on Monterey Road near Foremost liquor. (Look left as you approach the confusing intersection of train tracks, Arroyo Drive and Pasadena Avenue.) While it might not have the historic setting of Busters or Kaldi, Charlie's holds its own in a chic space with a beautiful collection of photographs. There is cool music, plenty of parking and the biggest ceiling fan you will ever see. Plus, Charlie's brews are made only with beans from Pasadena-based Jameson Brown coffee roasters -- and that alone scores big points with java connoisseurs. (It is pretty darned great coffee, I must admit. In fact, I might be in trouble if Charlie's decides to offer a 31 ounce size...)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In Good Spirits

The Meridian Iron Works building always puts me in a happy mood when I see it. It has been around since 1887, serving as many things over the years including a hotel, a grocery store and a blacksmith shop. Now it's the South Pasadena Historical Museum, as well as a cheerful place to hang out while waiting for a train.

Little Bit, however, is convinced that all the ghosts in town hang out upstairs there. What do you think?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

And while you're at it, toss a quarter not a penny...

So, the next time you stop by Starbucks on Fair Oaks, indulge that caffeine jones with the ginormous new Trenta sized coffee. At 31 ounces, it's actually larger than a human stomach!You can use the fountain outside to make a wish that you make it home without your head -- or bladder -- exploding.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Celebrating, Garfield Park Style

Back in 1912, Garfield Park was chosen as the location for a San Gabriel Valley Inter-City celebration. There were overflowing tables of free barbecue and a concert that may have started with genteel performances of Haydn and Handel but ended up with a rowdy, crowd-pleasing new number called the "Inter-City Quick Step." People from all over the region showed up to party under the trees in what appears to have been a Victorian version of one of Willie Nelson's Fourth of July picnics. Newspapers claimed that 4000 people were at the park, and that "at least 3999 were satisfied."

Maybe that one guy who didn't have a good time just needed to brush up on his quick step.

Here, Little Bit does her own version of the quick step at Garfield Park. (So quick, in fact, she almost got away from me while I took this shot.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


There are a lot of us in South Pas. We're the parents who work from home during the hours when our kids are sleeping or at school. You'll notice us everywhere. We're waiting outside the kindergarten door before class lets out, checking email on our smart phones. We're dragging paperwork to the park -- paperwork which, for the most part, remains in the backpack next to the juice boxes and handiwipes while we attend to items higher on our task lists like building sand castles or playing hide and seek. We have desks, but they're usually piled with overdue bills. (We eventually get to those bills. But only after the playdates, the dinner dishes, the laundry, the email and our own work -- which is also usually overdue.)

So, instead, we spread out on the coffee table. Late. With ice cream. And if we're photobloggers completely at a loss for ideas, we resort to a time-honored tradition that seems to work for five-year-olds: show and tell.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Palms: Retro

What do you get when you combine a walk in the historic Oaklawn neighborhood with a hipstamatic camera app for your iPhone? This!

Don't worry, I had my good camera with me and took dozens of shots. (Check out my latest column at South Pasadena Patch to see them. It should be posted sometime before lunch today.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Moon Between Two Palms

If you happened to be walking over the Oaklawn bridge yesterday in the late afternoon, you would have seen this.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Full disclosure: I crept over the border and into San Marino for this shot. These trees are part of the glorious Lacy Park. (But if you'll notice, they're leaning toward South Pas...)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

This got me to thinking...

So, how's everyone doing with those new year's resolutions? I'm acing mine. (It's not hard to do. Mine involve eating more chocolate and soaking longer in the tub. Hey, we all have our goals.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Requiem for the Trees

A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease.

--John Muir

This morning, our neighbors in Arcadia will lose a natural treasure. Barring a last minute miracle, the 11 acre grove of century old oak trees known as the Arcadia Woodlands will be razed today to make room for 250,000 cubic yards of Santa Anita dam sediment. The area is the only remaining example of the flatland woodlands that once thrived within the alluvial fans exiting the San Gabriel Mountains. You can read about it here, here, and here. You can see video of exactly what will be destroyed here.

I'd like to think that wisdom, thoughtfulness and true stewardship will prevail, but we all know how these things turn out.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tree Hugging

Don't the trees along Arroyo Drive look beautiful this time of year? By the way, I have a new column going up at South Pasadena Patch sometime this morning. It's all about one of my favorite subjects: South Pasadena's many, many trees. Our city has a history of protecting and cherishing our trees, and our community is all the better for it.

Meanwhile, construction is set to begin Wednesday on LA county's controversial Santa Anita Dam Riser Modification and Reservoir Sediment Removal Project. Why is this of interest to me? Because the proposed project would decimate nearby Arcadia Woodlands. Arcadia is slated to lose some 179 legacy oak trees, many over a hundred years in age. This woodland area also includes sycamores, California bay, elderberry, toyon, sugar bush and dozens of other native plant species. It provides a natural habitat for deer, bears, owls, hawks and bats as well as countless species of birds. If the county moves forward, it will turn a thriving, dynamic, regenerative, intact ecosystem (as well as a natural groundwater storage area) into a dump for sediment. And it won't just be the trees and animals who will suffer if the region is destroyed. The area is particularly hospitable to human beings, too. It is located at the northern end of an accessible urban trail that is level, flat and easily enjoyed by children and the elderly.

Several alternatives have been presented by concerned citizens, all of which have been rejected or passed off as unfeasible. I'm not blindly advocating that trees take precedence over dam safety or that flood control isn't a major (not to mention historical) issue in LA County. But in my opinion, officials have been at best disingenuous about this issue. When it comes to the grave decision to destroy a precious natural habitat -- one that can never be recreated -- the powers that be had damn well better exhaust all options before bringing in the bulldozers. Once a grove of century old trees is buried in sludge, it's too late to realize there might have been a wiser alternative.

Please join me in asking that LA County spare one of our few remaining woodlands by signing this online petition. So far, over 1300 concerned people have added their names to the list. If you are feeling particularly inspired, LA County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich's office phone number is 213-974-5555. He might be able to help, and would certainly be more inclined if enough people bugged him about it.

For more information, Arcadia Patch is providing great up-to-date coverage of this developing story. Sierra Madre Patch also has an interesting article here. I'm not the only one putting out the call for support. See Pasadena Adjacent for a list of other bloggers who want to save the Arcadia Woodlands.

UPDATE 4:25PM: Damn. Pasadena Star News is reporting that environmentalists lost the appeal. Razing of Arcadia Woodlands is slated to begin as scheduled tomorrow.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Just Driving By

Each time I pass this wonderful old wall, I stop and look at those vines. (And now you can look at them too.)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cupcakes and Common Ground

Sometimes, you just have to drop everything and make a batch of cupcakes.

Yesterday was grim as far as national news. It was one of those days that makes you want to grab your loved ones into a bear hug and not let go for at least twelve hours. It was a day that makes you question and yell, cry and wonder, and turn off the TV because you can only take so much sad, twisted reality before you need to escape into something else. In my case, I escaped into chocolate cake, pink frosting and sprinkles.

Recently, Pasadena Star News editor Frank Giradot gave me a lovely holiday shout-out. He included me in a group of political bloggers he thought were making a difference in our region -- and he included me precisely because Glimpses of South Pasadena is not a political blog. I don't think I've ever been more flattered because in our age of name-calling, finger-pointing, fear-mongering and tut-tutting there is a hell of a lot of political nonsense getting in the way of any real understanding.

I remember when those across the aisle were people you wanted to challenge, engage and convince -- not destroy. I wonder what is going to happen if we keep ratcheting up the gears of hate and hyperbole. There will certainly be more malfunctioning cogs -- like the lunatic who shot all those people in a grocery store in Arizona yesterday. Who knows, with enough rhetoric and vitriol, we might shut down this complex machine of ours altogether.

Instead of retreating into our corners, turning on whichever cable news station parrots our beliefs and logging onto Facebook or Twitter to spew self-righteous clichés in all caps, I believe we need to figure out how the two sides of our country can manage to live together in peace without tearing each other to shreds. I don't have any answers, but maybe a conversation over a cupcake is a good start.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Friday, January 7, 2011

Settings: Part 34

You may recognize this setting because I've shot pictures here before. There's something so wonderfully contradictory about noir shadows around an almost century old kids' water fountain. It's almost enough to wonder...

...if this were the location for a scene in a movie, what would happen here?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Caption this photo (#49)

I really love this photograph, but I can't think of a thing to write about it.
That's where you come in...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Arts and Crafts (and Cloudbursts)

Talk about a Craftsman Challenge...

I ventured out the other day to shoot pictures of South Pasadena's beloved bungalows when it started to rain. Here, a lonely lawn chair gets another rinse. (I'll be those little plants are happy, though...)

For more on Craftsman architecture -- and a whole lot of pictures of houses -- check out my latest at Patch. It should post sometime before lunchtime today.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Artistic Differences

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm taking pictures of our books for my blog," she said. "I'm going to have a blog, you know."

"What is your blog going to be about?"

"Magical stuff, and things about spies and superheroes and fairies. Oh, and pictures of my toys."

"And pictures of books," I said.

She paused, looking at the image she had just captured with the Disney Princess digital camera Santa had left in her stocking.

"No," she said. "These books are boring."

Then, her eyes twinkled as bright as flashbulbs.

"I know the perfect picture!" She said. "Let's give Mirabelle a bath!"

"We are not bathing the cat," I said.


"Definitely not bathing the cat."

"Okay," she said. "But you're missing out on the best blog picture ever."

(I guess that's why you guys get this one, instead.)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Speaking of Blimps...

Yesterday was a perfect day for parades and football. I ventured out between bites of queso and guacamole to snap this shot of the blimp circling over the Rose Bowl.

This region is no stranger to zeppelins -- and I don't just mean the strains of Ramble On I heard coming from my neighbor's new years eve party the other night. Almost a hundred years ago, a pair of South Pasadena police officers sailed 800 feet above the city in a dirigible made by Roy Knabenshue. Knabenshue was the very first person to fly a dirigible in the US, and he made quite a few test flights above our city in the fall of 1913 to make sure the airship would safely be able to carry a larger passenger load.

His tests proved successful and soon anybody who was anybody just had to take a ride in the amazing flying machine. Paying $25 for 25 minutes, riders departed from a hangar on Marengo Avenue in Pasadena -- just 300 feet from the South Pas border. Once aloft, passengers were treated to a spectacular view of the San Gabriel Valley. While it was promoted as a "daring adventure for brave gentlemen," half of the passengers were women. Several male journalists at the time expressed surprise that the ladies weren't more terrified. "There is an utter lack of terror or even apprehension," one reporter wrote. "Not one of them has at any time during a trip expressed alarm." Atta girls, South Pas Victorian ladies! Incidentally, a news report in the Record at the same time carried the headline, "Plucky Woman Dons Man's Attire." She was Marie Caspari, and she shocked South Pasadena society by showing up for an annual clean-up day wearing flannel trousers. "I suppose a great many persons will consider me immodest," she said. "When I start to do cleaning, I always put on a pair of men's trousers, and when wearing them I do not feel in the least embarrassed. Why should I?"

(I don't know for sure, but I'll bet she rode Knabenshue's zeppelin at least twice.)