Dinnertime in South Pasadena is not much different than in the rest of the world. Oh, we have our fair share of fine dining -- it's grand to indulge in Bistro de la Gare's Entrecote Flambee Au Cognac washed down with a glass of Châteauneuf-Du-Pape, or Mike and Anne's pork chops with lingonberry sauce or Firefly's Duck Paprikash. More likely, though, you'll throw together supper at home after a commute, after homework, after work and chores and shopping. As spring stretches the daylight hours, perhaps you'll fire up the barbecue. The divine scent of my neighbors' mesquite-grilled chicken often floats over to my place. With open windows, we share sounds of clanging pans and chopping onions.
"I want grilled cheese!" I hear the 8 year old neighbor boy's voice.
"I want mac and cheese!" Says his 6 year old brother.
"You'll have spaghetti and like it!" Says their dad.
I've touched on it here before. And then again. Sometimes all it takes to uplift your spirit is to look down at a wonderfully decrepit street, where the cracks have been there long enough for moss to grow and the city markings (gas lines? sewer?) look like tags from a minimalist graffiti artist. It's happenstance art and it's hidden in plain sight.
...they grow deep in South Pasadena. Here, they spread out beneath a towering heritage tree outside the library. Kids like to climb over the whole layout as if it were kind of Middle Earth jungle gym. I've seen a few high school kids hanging out in the shade. I like to perch there with a library book and a cup of Kaldi's dark roast.
I've posted before about the abundance of film and television location shoots in South Pasadena. (Even in my own neighborhood!) Here, crew members wheel a camera across El Centro at Meridian. I bumped into three separate productions around town on the day I snapped this shot. Some may find it annoying, but I love it that my city serves as a back lot. Then again, you guys know how much I like to imagine scenes from movies...
Kaldi's laid-back aesthetic offers a coffee break from reality -- unless you bring your laptop and take advantage of the free WiFi. But why do that when you can relax at an outside table beneath a canopy of camphor trees? When a breeze rustles the leaves, it's like someone whispering "slow down, slow down..."
In a town as smart, creative and kooky as South Pasadena, you can be sure to find great bumper stickers. (I'm sure all of you will remember my personal favorite.) But what can we make of this unusual directive? Sure, it's probably from a nifty restaurant on the coast somewhere. But what if it's code for something? A message hidden in an anagram! Yes! Let's crack this mystery right now!
Actually, the only anagrams I can come up with are: "Tubeless Hamsters" and "A Teamster Blushes."
Taking a picture may not actually stop time, but it definitely snags a moment of it. Push the shutter, and you make an imprint of something elusive. It's like being a kind of quantum wizard and forcing all those spinning quarks to pause.
When I take a picture, I get to slow down life's mad rush and notice things I might have missed. Like the bright afternoon sky. Or the girl's rainbow hair. Or the man's crinkly, unexpected smile.
If ghosts ever belly up to a spirit world bar, I doubt they reminisce about the huge events of life. Sure, jackpot lottery tickets and Academy Award speeches are life's exclamation points. The winning touchdown, the heroic escape, the artful dodge -- they're loud and exciting. They break things up and flex the adrenals. But nobody wants to listen to a continuous drum solo, and too many fireworks obscure the chorus of stars. It's the day-to-day stuff that gives life it's base. We need to find our footing on solid ground in order to tilt at windmills, right?
I've been thinking a lot about the joy of ordinary things. Flowers from the Farmers Market next to a well-used teapot? Not exactly high art. But then again, if Van Gogh is up there nursing a scotch and talking about glory days, I'll bet what he remembers most are the irises, not the fact that he got famous for painting them...
Walking on a cold, spring night (bristling at the chill, squinting at the colors, wishing after stars and chasing after memories) is sort of like a midnight swim. It's refreshing, but a little melancholy.
Spring is like a perhaps hand (which comes carefully out of Nowhere) arranging a window, into which people look (while people stare arranging and changing placing carefully there a strange thing and a known thing here) and
changing everything carefully
spring is like a perhaps Hand in a window (carefully to and fro moving New and Old things, while people stare carefully moving a perhaps fraction of flower here placing an inch of air there) and
Look who I found leaning against the wall in the corner of the wine cellar... (Actually, the wine cellar happens to double as the laundry room, and this bunny awaits a spring cleaning because he seems to have gotten chocolate egg on his face.)
A lone car, an almost empty lot and a peachy-purple sky prompted me to scramble for my tripod before the light dissolved into black. I had gone to Orchard Supply Hardware for light bulbs and vacuum cleaner bags, but I ended up with inspiration.
Today is the first of the month, and that means it's Theme Day for participating City Daily Photo bloggers. This month's theme is Red -- a color which so often tell us to stop, but that in this contrary sign encourages us to go. (Good advice for spring.)
In December of 2007, after many years on the west side of Los Angeles (and at least a third of those years spent stuck in traffic on Pico Boulevard) my family settled into a happy little house in South Pasadena. This daily blog covered over 4 year as I put down roots in my new home town.
My New Blog Launching 2013
Check out my multimedia column archive: Views from the Front Porch
Published at Patch.
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Thank you Charlie's Coffee House for hosting my recent photo exhibit, South Pas: Observed. From October 2011 through January 2012 my pictures graced the walls of the best place in town to get a cup of coffee!
Read the nifty story on photo bloggers Petrea Burchard, Ben Wideman, Kat Likkel and little old me featured in the September, 2011 issue of Pasadena Magazine.
For over 4 years, I presented a picture a day from South Pasadena, California -- an incorporated city within the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. All photos up to November, 2008 were taken with a Fujifilm Finepix E900 camera. I added a Fujifilm Finepix S2000HD megazoom in December 2008, a Nikon D3100 in 2010 and a Lumix DMC-DS8 in 2011. I shot with them all. In August 2010 I joined the iPhone camera craze and sometimes included pictures captured by my phone. I regularly cropped images and used basic editing software to adjust the brightness, intensify the contrast, and increase color saturation. Other than that, all images came straight from the camera with minimal alteration. (If I couldn't have done it in a darkroom, I wouldn't do it with a computer.)
The bigger picture:
Consider it a love letter to the place I call home.
You can click on any picture to see a larger version.
All photos and prose on this blog copyright Laurie Allee. Reproduction without written permission is prohibited. (Plus, it's really uncool.)
Run, don't walk to the nearest bookseller and pick up a copy of Margaret Finnegan's delightful debut novel, The Goddess Lounge -- undoubtedly the kookiest, most wonderful riff on Homer's Odyssey ever written. Margaret never ceases to inspire and make us laugh at her blog Finnegan Begin Again. Her book is magical, silly, smart and a wonderful love letter to the all the goddesses among us.
Kevin McCollister of East of West LA blows our minds with haunting images of Los Angeles. But since we can't put his blog on our coffee table, we can buy his fantastic book. I believe Kevin's images truly capture the quixotic and often heartbreaking soul of LA. Don't take my word for it, see what The LA Times had to say.