Sunday, July 26, 2015

Preserving the Evanston Inn



Buildings of historic significance can disappear in the blink of an eye. Which is why some friends and I expected the worst for the Evanston Inn, teetering and tottering, after years of neglect, on Marengo and Del Mar. We expected it would be razed, replaced by a tri-story concrete/steel condo, painted in various shades of baby diarrhea and spit-up. (Nothing against baby gastric-intestinal offerings, but why does New Pasadena love this palette?)

Whatever. Here's where we stand.



The Evanston Inn, of the distant past, circa 1890.



2013.



2014.



2015.



And future.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Catty corner



Though it's been raining all day, I'm not bored. Some of us rely on intellectual pursuits for entertainment. Give me a window shade, moth, and electrical cord, and I'll see you tomorrow, don't let the door hit you on your way out. The Dog, on the other hand, has fewer -- to put it politely -- personal resources. Which is why we let him outside. To do what? Sniff wet and then wetter things, apparently, from what I can see.



I've been giving this a lot of thought, and you know what I think?



I think rain is for suckers. I told him as much, believe you me.



And I told him if thinks he's going to run back inside and kiss me, he can just think again. Towel off first, buster, then, well, we'll take it under consideration. Maybe when the moth is dead and I've completed my autopsy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Midweek Matinee: Winter Sleep



Prior to Winter Sleep, when was the last time I watched a Turkish film? Wait, let me check the calendar to make sure I have the right date ... ah, here it is: Never.

You'd think a movie that won the Palme D'Or in 2014 would create a little buzz, but if it did, I missed it. We lost a lot when we lost most of the small movie houses which showed nothing but foreign films.

Not that Winter Sleep is hard to find -- it streams on Netflix, for one.

When I heard this was a Turkish movie, and given my vast experience of never seeing one, I assumed the major theme would involve war, politics, and/or religion. Because I've never read anything about Turkish people except as some collective entity who apparently are involved in nothing but war, politics, and/or religion.

Winter Sleep is a movie about individuals and their personal struggles: an upper middle-class, aging man-- a landlord, the owner of an hotel, and a writer of columns in a newspaper nobody reads. His true claim to fame is that once he was an actor of limited fame, and shared the screen with Omar Sharif. He tells any hotel guest willing to listen, "I remember the day Omar told me..."

The other characters merely exist in his sphere. For him, they're his misbehaving satellites, often tracking questionable orbits. The much younger wife, once star-struck, now disenchanted and straining to break her husband's gravitation pull. The property manager, the bankrupt angry tenant, the one friend, and the sister who serves as a bitter Greek chorus to most of the characters.

I suppose I'm not doing a good job selling this movie, am I? It might not help if I tell you it's over three hours long, with acres of dialogue, and initially quite reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman -- the chatty years.

But I broke this movie up into three-day chunks. Which worked perfectly fine. Because you're not going to miss a rising exposition that ends with a building exploding, a wife who is beaten, a man who is shot. The most violent act involves two inanimate objects. And you won't even be surprised when that happens. You're supposed to see it coming. Like a Chekhov story, you're asked to balance two things in your mind at one time: the dialogue, and the inevitable.

In the end, I realized that Winter Sleep doesn't owe a debt to Chekhov or Bergman, but shares their history. Most of all, it reminds me of Joyce's The Dead. A story where you watch the ego inflate and deflate, time and time again. And how we protect the ego, assuming we'll die should it deflate. So we patch it, pump it up with argument and self-deception, aggrandizement. Until finally, maybe one day, we just let it go. Watch all the hot air escape; accept the pain, for pain it is. And pick through the ruins, for what remains.

And realize comfort, perhaps even redemption, should we find our self.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Some people



...you like from the get-go. Who knows why.

I don't like it when people I like move to some faraway place. I don't like it at all. When you come down to it, it's quite rude, actually, as they've obviously not taken the sense of loss I'll feel into consideration.

(I also don't like that "Like" has been redefined, usurped. "Like" should not be batted about like a balloon. It's special. I'm reclaiming it.)

I liked Bellis the first time I met her. To begin with, I liked her accent, and told her so. And she said, "Why? Because it makes me sound like a nanny?"

She's a Brit, you know, and rather exacting.

So I think I said something like, "Oh no, nonononono."

Over the past six years or so, we liked walking and hiking together. Not that we made it a habit, it was very occasional, just from time to time. But some really special hikes -- like in Angeles after the fires, when we took a trail, and later walked on the highway, shut to traffic, as if we owned the place. The time in East LA, Haha, Icehouse, San Rafael -- oh, quite a few others, now that I think about it.

Her knowledge of the San Gabriels puts her up there with the 1%. She does her homework, and knows the history, the names of the trails, campsites, peaks, and valleys. A walk with Bellis is always an education.

And now she's moving to Germany. Pretty sure she'll like the change. More history to explore, mysteries to uncover, new peaks and valleys requiring identification. She'll teach the life-long residents a thing or two.

Over the years, I think Bellis and I had only two major points of disagreement -- whether her dogs should be leashed when hiking (Bellis: no; Karin: yes; I lost that one), and whether one could/should leave the shells from hard boiled eggs on the trail (Karin: yes; Bellis: no; somehow, I lost that one, too).

Oh yeah, one other: whether Bellis should leave California. I guess that means I'm 0 for 3.